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The Harvest moon has come and passed. The crops of the season have been brought in, and here in the south, the winter wheat has been planted. It’s time for those of us who grow our own herbs for the kitchen, and cauldron, to make our gardens ready for winter.
You don’t even have to move a few of your plants right away. Cacti and succulents such as Aloe Vera are built to handle colder weather, right up to a hard freeze. At that point, you will need to bring them in then or cover them with a blanket if they are too large to move.
Many of your posted herbs can be moved inside as well if you have an area with proper lighting. The sunshine they needed outside, they need inside as well, of course, so if your goal is to keep your basil, chives, mint, and all the other annuals and more tender plants alive throughout the winter, keep in mind that you are recreating the environment that they thrived in during the last 6-8 months.
You may not want to try to keep all your plants growing, so choose the ones you want to work with. Once you have done this, it’s time to think of what to do with the plants that you harvest.
I would say that the most important, and decorative, uses of your sprigs of basil or rosemary, for example, is to put them into a pretty bottle filled with olive oil, or any cooking oil of your choice. You can also whip fresh chives, or rosemary, into butter for use with your mashed potatoes through the winter.
Here’s a great tip for freezing your herbs. Freezing herbs in winter, while discoloring the leaves, maintains their full freshness. Because of this, my suggestion is that you dice your herbs and freeze them into ice cubes. After the cubes are frozen, store them in a labeled, airtight container until ready for use. This is also a timesaver when you mix your herbs to freeze. For instance, since I enjoy minestrone soup, I make freezing cubes of 1tsp chopped basil, ½ tsp parsley, and one tsp oregano since that is what I use to make this delicious Italian vegetable soup.
One important point to remember is that no matter how you choose to dry your herbs, be sure to leave them whole for as long as possible. This will maintain the flavor and the oils in the dry leaves until needed.
That’s it for today folks. I hope you enjoy this and it helps you preserve all the flavors and magic in your kitchens.