Feature

July in the garden

Hi, my name is Peter Frances a.k.a. the Hairygardener

This month I’m continuing on with herbs, I think I’m up to the part were I was going to tell you how to preserve herbs so that we can use them all year round.

There are many ways of drying herbs and everyone has their favourite, why because it’s worked for you, but I’ll mention a few tips and facts you may not know about, so here goes.

There are various methods for drying herbs but what they all require is that the herb is dried and stored out of the light by either using brown paper bags, hanging them in bunches or laying them between sheets of newspaper (reuse old copies of the Challenge).

If you are using brown paper bags always label the bags with the name of the herb, the date and where you picked it. This is a good habit to get into as the plants can change a lot in the drying process. Believe me even if you think you will know it is surprising how you forget especially if you are drying several herbs over a period of a few weeks.

Leave the bags in a dry warm environment for several weeks, you can put them in an airing cupboard or leave them on top of radiators. You should shake the bags and turn the leaves over with your hands every day or two. It is essential to do this to stop any mould getting in to the herbs while they are drying.

The herbal properties of leaves and flowers will deteriorate after one year so they need to be collected every year. Fruit, seeds, berries, roots and bark will last for two years.

It is the light that destroys the herbal properties of the plants so at its simplest herbs can be stored all year in brown paper bags although if they are kept in the kitchen they will need to be kept in an airtight plastic or tin container.

Using our herbs, the most popular way is making herbal teas, buying herbal tea bags is convenient but be aware that the herbs may be old by the time you drink them and the herbs may have been grown in mono cultures and sprayed with petro-chemicals. It is infinitely better to make your own.

Making herb teas is not an exact science especially when using the common safe plants. Use about a teaspoonful of dried herb to between a half to a pint of water depending on the need, don’t forget dried herbs have twice the strength of fresh herbs, so twice the amount of fresh herb is used. I hope you have success growing and using your herbs and each year your herb bed increases in size as you discover the benefits of different herbal plants that you can grow literally on your kitchen doorstep.

Until next time Good Gardening

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