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Herb questions

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Herb questions

Post  auntij on 7/16/2010, 7:52 pm

I have a couple questions regarding herbs. First question is about preserving them anyone have any tips? I have a ton of oregano, basil, etc and would like it to continue growing but also don't want it to get eaten by anything but me and my family. My second problem/question has to do with dill. I just can't seem to get it to grow much. Does anyone have any suggestions? Does dill do better in containers as opposed to a sfg box? I am attempting to grow mammoth dill I started it by seed back in April and it has barely reached 12" (and that is generous), it is spindly, and just down right looks sad. Thanks in advance!


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Re: Herb questions

Post  camprn on 7/16/2010, 8:58 pm

I always thought dill did better in a sandy type of soil. The dill I planted in the SFQ is going slowly. I think next year I will have a separate garden area that has less rich soil. read more info here.
Basil you can dry or freeze or make into pesto. I pruned back my basil today and made a ton of pesto that I am freezing in ice cube trays.
My oregano is quite hardy and will seed and continue to grow year to year. You can cut back the oregano stems and dry them. When dry just strip the leaves from the stems and store in airtight container.

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Re: Herb questions

Post  Furbalsmom on 7/16/2010, 9:26 pm

I cut oregano, thyme, sage or rosemary stems, tie them into separate bundles with a rubber band, then place them head down in a brown paper sack (like a lunch bag) for each variety, tie the bag with a rubber band or string and hang up for a couple of weeks. When you check and find the leaves completely dry, crumble the oregano, thyme or sage leaves from the stem and store in a canning jar with a lid screwed on tight. For rosemary, I pick the dried rosemary needles from the stem, and again store in a canning jar with the lid screwed on tight.
Any dried herb should be stored away from heat and light.

Basil can be chopped fresh, add a small amount of water, then freeze in ice cube trays until they are hard. Then just pop them out of the ice cube tray and into a zip lock freezer bag. This way you can add just a cube's worth of basil to your sauce recipes.

Flat leaf parsley can be dried or frozen as described above.

Sorry, I have not grown dill so I don't have any suggestions.

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Re: Herb questions

Post  Megan on 7/17/2010, 7:26 am

My non-Mammoth dill isn't doing well, either. It DID produce seed heads, though, and I'm going to need to harvest some of them this weekend before they blow away. (I am sure they would self-seed themselves, probably already have, but the pots are sitting on grass and any seedlings will get mown down.)

@Furbalsmom: Do you grow your rosemary as an annual or a perennial? I have always been leery of harvesting a lot of rosemary for fear of killing the plant; I just pick a stem here and there as I need them.

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Post  ander217 on 7/17/2010, 9:22 am

I've found the best way to grow Mammoth dill is in its own separate bed. We have clay loam soil here, and although dill is an annual it will easily reseed itself each year. I learned the hard way when I planted some in my row-garden. For years afterward we had dill plants coming up everywhere. We let them take over one corner and named it "The Amazing Dill Forest". We supplied dill for many friends and neighbors up until this year when we turned that corner into SFG beds and boxes. People are still asking us if we have dill, so I'm going to seed a new bed in a corner of the garden next year. We miss seeing the swallowtail caterpillars munching away on the plants.

I dry and store my herbs as Furbalsmom does, but instead of placing them in a paperbag I dry them in a closet near my kitchen. I hammered tacks along the edge of a high shelf in the closet. I slip a string through the rubber band around my bunches to be dried, and hang the bunches upside down from the tacks.

The first time I tried this I just tied the string around the bunches without using a rubber band, but as they dried the stems shrunk and they were soon falling all over the floor of the closet.

I like using the closet because the herbs still dry in the dark as needed, but they get more air circulation. I've never had problems with them crumbling or losing their seeds with this method, although I handle them very carefully once they are dry.

Basil is difficult to dry. The slightest bruise will turn the leaves black. As others say, it is better for freezing. Other herbs can be frozen, too. I also make an herb butter which I freeze.

It also makes a difference what time of day, and at what growing stage the plant is in when it is harvested - whether it is young, just before flowering, etc. The oils are stronger at certain times or in certain parts of the plant. You should be able to google for specifics of each herb.

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Re: Herb questions

Post  Furbalsmom on 7/18/2010, 4:05 pm

Megan, I grow rosemary as a perrenial. I just keep snipping away, because where you snip, you will usually get new branching growth. I am no longer in Northern VA, but I grew it as a perrenial there too and it just kept growing. Here on the Oregon Coast, I bought a 4 inch pot of rosemary as a starter, and now 3 years later, I am having to prune it to get the bigger branches under control, DO NOT throw away those clippings, take the branches and dry them. When you are ready to cook out on your grill, soak some branches in water for 30 minutes or so, then place on the briquets (sp?) to lightly smoke and flavor your chicken or pork. You can also do this with rosemary sprigs you have preserved by drying. After removing the dried needles and storing them for kitchen use, take the remaining twigs and use them on your grill.

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Post  ander217 on 7/19/2010, 8:03 am

I never met a rosemary plant I couldn't kill.

My herb garden is lush with Greek oregano, French tarragon, German biergarten sage, bee balm, chives, French lavender, lemon thyme, and English thyme. I can grow huge forests of dill, and my mints run amok.

I have yet to get a single rosemary plant to survive more than one summer in the garden. I've strawed them, wrapped them when temps go below 15 degrees, mulched them, - it doesn't matter. If I get them to survive the summer, they all die during the winter. My daughter, who has the rosemary plant that tried to eat Texas tells me, "Just snip a few branches at the end of summer and root them to grow in pots inside, or dig up your whole plant and pot it. They're easy to grow."

I tried. I really did. All of mine died slow, torturous deaths, their forlorn dried sticks standing as a monument to my inability to sustain even one branch through the winter.

I suppose Rosemary will always be my unrequited love. Sigh.

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Re: Herb questions

Post  Icemaiden on 7/19/2010, 9:27 am

@Furbalsmom wrote: You can also do this with rosemary sprigs you have preserved by drying. After removing the dried needles and storing them for kitchen use, take the remaining twigs and use them on your grill.

A couple of years ago my family had a holiday in Italy. The lady we rented from also taught cookery classes so we took a day with her. We made lasagne from start to finish, and the meat sauce was seasoned with stems of rosemary - she stripped off the leaves and put about 3 stems in a batch of 2lbs of meat. It tasted amazing!


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Re: Herb questions

Post  milaneyjane on 7/19/2010, 11:48 am

For Basil I freeze little packets. I snip it with scissors and then place a small spoonful on saran wrap and make a tight little packet. I place all the individual packets in a zip lock and label it. When I need it for cooking I can take out as many packets as I need. Tastes just like fresh basil. Works great with cilantro too!

I have also had a horrible time with dill. I finally gave up this year after three years of trying it in different areas of my garden with no success, including a sandy area. Not sure why it is so difficult

My other hebs including rosemary, mint, etc... I freeze on a cookie sheet and then put in plastic bags.

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