Saturday, October 05, 2013

Herbs for the Winter Kitchen

Keep life cozy and abundant! With the coming holiday season, try a small start-up garden of herbs indoors to enjoy in your kitchen all winter... from Halloween to Memorial Day!  These plants make for great conversation pieces - and you must have heard that many gardeners talk to their plants – a bit of gardening fun with the added bonus of eating your results! Be one with nature!

How to grow herbs indoors during winter

Gather as many fresh herbs from your outdoor garden (if you have one) as possible before the first frost. This will give your fresh herbs an extra week or three. Mints and Basil (and even Oregano) may take root so you can pot them and place them in a sunny kitchen window! Some people have no luck with indoor Basil.  My outdoor Basil grew to be quite large (see picture!) , so we havested the leaves and dried them in a warm oven. Once dried and crushed, that huge amount of green concentrated down into a salt-shakerful of herb!

Herbs you can grow in the house include thyme, bay leaves, chervil and tarragon (both can be iffy - try your luck), oregano (likes south-facing windows), parsley (east or west windows), rosemary and sage (south). Word to the wise: don’t let the plants touch cold windows.

Sometimes you can find kitchen herbs in the produce area of your local supermarket. Otherwise, plant herbs in a lightweight potting soil. You can add perlite or coarse sand and, if you wish, toss in a pinch of lime. Most herbs prefer sweet soil with a higher pH. Sage likes acidic soil, so add extra peat moss to its potting mix.

Harvest your herbs when mature - rule of thumb: don’t remove too much of the plant at once – no more than 1/3. I snip mine with kitchen shears I purchased at a dollar store.

Make herbs part of a healthy diet

Bay leaves are amazing! A single leaf in a pot of beans with onion and garlic makes for a tasty, protein-rich meal. You may add a few beef chunks and/or beef broth if you wish.

Toss in a little thyme to add pizazz to any flavour canned soup. Goes great w/fish and poutry. Save some for use in your Thanksgiving Turkey Rub. Use Mint in teas.

• Sprinkle oregano on frozen or carryout pizza. Use for tomato-based sauces, especially Italian dishes. Sprinkle rosemary over oven fries or canned vegetables. Use with meat, especially lamb.

• Add tarragon or tarragon vinegar w/fresh-frozen green beans or deli bean salad.

• Rub sage on those supermarket-roasted chickens. Sprinkle a bit on grapefruit. Use chives in salads and sauces or with vegetables.

This year I will be trying indoor peppers and tomatoes for the first time. I am not planning to use any grow-lights or otherwise pamper the plants, except for some Miracle-Gro for tomatoes. I'll keep you updated on that!

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