Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preserving Self Grown Herb Seeds by Alfred Kirby

Drying herb seeds like mustard seeds is really a fairly straightforward task. However, you might want to realize that even though a seed appears tough and dry, you must never put it into a storage container without first actually drying it. Because a few seeds have a hard outside shell, they can hold water on the inside that you just might not be aware of. If these seeds are put away in a sealed container before they are totally dried, they can easily spoil and grow mold.
Gathering up the seeds from your plants is probably the most challenging part. Start off by shaking the plant to get out as many as possible, then finish up by plucking the leftover seeds from the plant. I understand this might appear evident to some, but do not wash them since doing so could cause them to sprout. Instead, sift the seeds inside a mesh basket or a colander and then put them in between a couple of kitchen towels and rub them all-around to eliminate as much dust and debris as you are able to.

When preserving your seeds, it is essential that you dry them completely. You will want to furnish a bit of additional warmth. A food dehydrator with tiny air openings is ideal for this, but if you don't have one, you'll be able to do it in the oven. Remember, just a bit of warmth. You just intend to dry your seeds, not roast them.

Turn the oven on only until the element becomes red and then turn it back off again. That'll supply you with just enough warmth to dry your seeds without cooking them. Spread your seeds out on a baking sheet that has been lined with a towel to help hold them in position. Put the pan inside the oven and leave the door cracked just a little to permit air to circulate. Continue to repeat this procedure every time your oven cools down. After doing this process three times, examine your seeds by biting into one. It should crack and be hard and crunchy when it is sufficiently dry. Allow your seeds to stay out on the counter top for more than an hour to rest prior to storing them.

Your dried house grown seeds must always be kept inside a sealed plastic container, glass jar with a lid or a spice jar. This will continue to keep them fresh for quite a while and keep them safe from airborne dirt and dust as well as pests.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ideas On How To Use Fresh Herb Blends

Sometimes you just get tired of using the same old recipe that tastes the same time after time. But we are all so busy we are looking for easy ways to spice up are repertoire. One way that many cooks forget is to use blends of herbs to add subtle flavor distinctions. The French have been doing this forever.

The French never use just one herb in there dishes but rather a blend of herbs that they call a “bouquets garni”. Don’t be put off by that fancy name, it simply means a bouquet of herbs. The blend of herbs adds subtle but distinct flavors to every dish you prepare. The trick is to get the right blend for so no one herb dominates the dish. You want the flavors to be delicate.

With just a few herb bouquets you can change the taste of a recipe instantly. Now, old recipes have added spark and will get you plenty of “This is Greats”. Your aim here is to create a complex flavor that is balanced making each guest want to instantly take another bite. Of course there is different garni for each recipe. You want to achieve the right herbs and spices that compliment each other. You want to use the right relationship between quantities of each herb you are using.

For meat based casseroles, stews, stocks and soup, the old tried and true garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaf still apply. But go one step further and add a twist of citrus (lime, lemon, or orange) for a little zip. The formula for this garni is 3 sprigs of parsley, 1 sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf. Get a piece of cooking string and tie the bundle together. Viola, just add the bundle to your dish and remove it before serving. Please use fresh herbs, they’re so much better. If you have to use dried, sprinkle the herbs into a patch of cheesecloth and tie the cloth together with the string. .Fine Herbes and Herbes de Provence are to other bouquets that the French use in their cooking.

You can buy these at the grocery store or a gourmet shop but why not make your own. Finely chop fresh oregano, thyme, marjoram, savory, and marjoram for Herbes de Provence. Add one tablespoon of each to your dish. This combination can also be used in salads, meat dishes and vegetables.

The English version of Herbes de Provence is sage, rosemary, marjoram, Italian parsley chives, tarragon and thyme. Mix them all together and use on lamb, pork or in stuffing.

For Fine Herbes, mix together chopped parsley, tarragon, chives and chervil. Experiment with the quantities. Be adventurous! Keep careful notes when you are experimenting so that you can duplicate the successes and toss the disasters. Remember that creating beautiful tasty dishes is a more of a craft that an art.

You will need to identify the flavor and strength of each herb so that you can group them into either mild or robust. Examples of mild herbs are basil, bay leaf, chervil dill, and marjoram. These herbs combine well with most other herbs and their flavors become milder during the cooking process. With mild herbs you can use larger amounts and with more variation. They can also be used in salads and other dishes where the leaves are not cooked or briefly cooked.

Your robust herbs stand up to cooking. Often, they are used for braised or roasted meat or domestic fowl, soups, stews and even grilled foods. You will have work on the recipe since sometime the herbs alter subtly during the cooking process. They will either become more muted or in some cases intensify. They can always be combined with the mild herbs. Robust herbs include sorrel, rosemary, garlic, oregano, sage, tarragon and thyme.

Another cool easy to use fresh herbs is to flavor oil or vinegar with a blend of either mild or robust herbs. You will need pretty glass jars (preferable dark) and a tight seal. Simply put your combination of herbs in the jar, add the oil or vinegar, seal and let it sit for several weeks. Oils should be stored in the refrigerator. The herbs will add a subtle flavor to the liquid and will be delicious in a variety of ways.

You can make really healthy tinctures with fresh herbs. But I would urge you to master the cooking with herbs before you branch out to other areas. By know exactly how each herb flavors each dish you will instinctually know what to use in tinctures.

Again be adventurous, mix and match, keep trying new things and keep notes so your successes can be repeated. After you have mastered cooking with herbs, who knows? Maybe you will start an herb garden so you will always have fresh delicious herbs on hand.

Here’s to Good Cooking!

Copyright © 2006 Mary Hanna All Rights Reserved.

Mary Hanna is an aspiring herbalist who lives in Central Florida. This allows her to grow gardens inside and outside year round. She has published other articles on Gardening, Cruising and Cooking. Visit her websites at and or contact her at

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

2 Uncommon Ways For Growing Fresh Herbs Indoors

A healthy garden bed is glorious because it is pleasant to sight. It gives a relaxing ambiance to the room they're sitting in. Growing fresh herbs indoors is beneficial in so many ways.

You don't have to put in a lot of hard work to keep your indoor garden perennially green. The amount of hard work you put in may not always be proportionate to what you get out of your garden. When it comes to gardening, smart work can be more rewarding.

Below are 2 uncommon methods you can use to grow fresh herbs indoors:

1. Herb rotation:

Herb rotation is growing different herbs in different seasons instead of growing the same kind continuously throughout the year. Different herbs are being grown as the season changes.

There are many benefits to rotating the plants in your indoor garden. Changing your herbs will balance the fertility of the soil and avoid the build up pest that can be harmful to the plants.

Crop rotation will keep your soil fertilized, slow the spread of pests and diseases during the growing season. It will grow your indoor garden with fresh and healthy plants instead of letting them lie fallow.

2. Growing Companion herbs:

Many gardeners grow companion herbs to improve the overall health of their garden. Some herbs actually grow better when they're grown with some other herbs.

Companion plants can be of great help for growing fresh herbs indoors. They can act as repellant to harmful pest or attract beneficial insects. Companion herbs are known to assist in the growth of other plants by providing nutrients or fixing nitrogen in the soil.

You can find a complete list of companion herbs here: Companion herbs

Herb rotation and growing companion crops have been a popular practice by farmers worldwide. It is however, yet to catch up with gardening enthusiasts. These two uncommon methods can be effectively put to use for growing fresh herbs indoors.

Marie Davis is an herb expert. For more tips on growing fresh herbs indoors, visit indoor herb gardening.

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