Day 274: Drying Herbs From My Garden

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My herb garden has matured so much since it was planted in the spring. The plants are lush and aromatic. I love walking through the garden and catching the scent of lemon balm, basil and lavender as the breeze stirs the plants. As fall brings the promise of cooler weather, it is time to begin harvesting the leaves. Today, for my first, I made a simple drying rack and began gathering herbs into bouquets to dry.

I love using herbs for occasional cooking. I don’t cook much except during the holidays and in the cooler months when I enjoy making chili and an assortment of soups. I especially enjoy dried herbs in making my own teas, potpourri and beauty products. I wanted an Apothecary garden to be a central part of the backyard garden. With such an abundance of healthy herbs, I intend to learn more uses for these versatile plants.

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Today I gathered lemon balm, oregano, lavender, globe basil and regular basil, mint, thyme, lemon grass and Russian sage, fresh from the garden. I loved inhaling in the amazing scents as I snipped sprigs. Using a heavy string, I tied the herbs into bunches. In the spring, I had saved a couple of small bamboo trellises that two of my clematises came with. I knew I would find a use for them. This evening I repurposed them into a simple drying rack, tying the two together with more string. Greg secured four cup hooks above the kitchen sink for me and attached the makeshift drying rack to them, looping string around the rack and creating slipknots. I was impressed with the knots! He was a boyscout….I was a campfire girl. I focused more on making fire, I suppose!

After the rack was suspended above the sink, in front of the window, I attached each bunch of herbs, upside down. The air can circulate freely and dry the plants. After the herbs are thoroughly dried, I’ll crumble them up and store them in airtight containers. The herbs will preserve their flavor and aroma for a year. I’ll hang a thin curtain over the window tomorrow so the plants won’t get direct sun while they dry.

I stepped back and observed my work. What a thrill, to tuck those young plants into the ground last spring, nurture them and watch them grow, and now begin the drying process. In the past, I’ve bought dried herbs from a favorite health food store. Now I’ll have my own. I love that I have a relationship with these plants! As I use the herbs this fall and winter I’ll reflect back on their time in my sunny garden and the joy they have given to me. Next spring they will push up through the earth once more to grace me again with their presence. One lovely gift they offer now is that I won’t mind standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, with the fragrant herbs drying there. I might even start cooking early this fall so I’ll have an excuse to be in the kitchen!

Drying herbs named 2

Day 115: Purchase New Varieties of Herbs

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With the beautiful, warm weather today, I returned to the first I had scheduled yesterday….the purchase of a couple of new varieties of herbs. Last year, I bought a baker’s rack at a yard sale. It was a dark green in color and was the perfect size for my front deck. I visualized an assortment of clay pots and metal containers, each containing an herbal plant, clustered on the baker’s rack.

A couple of coats of bright yellow spray paint transformed the baker’s rack into a fun plant holder. And I found a great selection of pots and planters that I filled with herbs. I so enjoyed this herbal collection on my front deck last summer. Sitting on the porch swing, every gentle breeze wafting through the plants carried to me the amazing scents of peppermint, sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary. Every time I watered the herbs, using a bright yellow watering can, the plants released their scents to me again. Sometimes I’d go outside and brush the herbs lightly with my hands, just so I could deeply inhale their fragrances.

I loved the plants and used dried leaves primarily in herbal teas and potpourri that I made myself. Occasionally I’d pick a sprig to use in cooking. When cold weather approached, I moved the whole rack, herbs and all, into my office where the plants could bask in the wintery sunshine that filtered in through the windows. It was a joy to sit in my office and catch those tantalizing aromas while I worked.

With the return of warmer weather, it was time to relocate the rack to the front deck. A few of the herbs didn’t winter well, becoming scraggly. Most went into a dormant state and began to put out new growth a couple of weeks ago. Today I picked up a few favorites to freshen my collection and for my first, I found a couple of herbs I’d not heard of before: pineapple sage and cinnamon basil. Both plants smell wonderful! The pineapple sage has just a hint of pineapple combined with the pungent sage. And the cinnamon basil, smelling spicy and sweet, is going to be a favorite! Tomorrow I’ll enjoy potting the new herbs and arranging the baker’s rack.

As the back yard garden takes shape, there will be an herbal garden there as well. I intend to create an herbal knot garden, starting with a small Celtic knot design that can be added to over the years. I look forward to strolling through my garden and catching the delicate fragrances as I pass by. That will be bliss!

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