Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What To Do With Herbs in Your Garden

It's springtime but not until yesterday did I see the sun come out after many days of rainfall.  Non-stop raining, days and night, generously watered my plants, my roses, and my herbs, until my backyard almost got flooded. What a way  of nature providing me water to  keep my plants hydrated without any cost and helping me save on my water bill.  

Together with Marley, my chihuahua buddy, it was a delight to discover that some of my plants became so lush and some were inundated with water and were almost dying.  The several pieces of ginger which I kept on top of the soil under my rosemary bush came back to life.  They were starting to get wrinkly in my kitchen when I decided to keep them in the garden. This is one tip I learned from my mother which keeps ginger fresh and ready for use anytime. 

The spearmint has taken over everything. If I don't contain it, all the other herbs will die or just be covered underneath it.  They really spread so fast. I have to trim them by cutting about 6 inches from top, then bundling  5 or 6 sprigs together with a kitchen string and hanging them upside down to dry.  They are good to make tea either fresh or dried.  I just love pouring hot boiling water into some fresh spearmint leaves in a cup, covering them with a small plate and letting them sit for a few minutes. You can also add lemon or brown sugar if you desire.  I also use them more often as a garnish to any dish that I cook.  They add more color and presents the food in a more visually palatable way. You can also use the mint as an additional flavoring in making sauces, salad dressings, and other great ideas and experiments you would like to try.  I remember, I also used it as one of the herbs in making the french sauce for my son's project in his French class in high school, the French Roast Prime Rib with French Green Sauce project. 

How else can you use the prolific mint in your garden?  Some people use it to freshen their breath.  Just snip some leaves, pop them into your mouth and chew.  Don't forget to rinse with water afterwards for you don't want the green chlorophyll to stain your teeth and remain in your mouth. 

Mint is also good to eat with a Vietnamese soup called Pho with some sprouts, basil, and lime.  I have the recipe in my blog if you want to make this delectable soup.  The key to making a good Pho is by simmering the beef for a long time until the meat practically falls of its' bones.

The chives became lush and it's now good to use as a sprinkle on top of my omelets or just for garnishing.  I love how just two pieces of chive artistically placed on top of a dish, one on  top of each other, can visually enhance the appearance of the dish.  It is remarkable that so simple an herb as  chive can make dishes created by famous chefs visually appealing.

My oregano grew and it has to be replanted so it can allow for the small sprouts to grow bigger and have more room to grow.  I use both the dry and fresh oregano in my cooking.  A little will go a long way.  I use it in making a Philippine delicacy called "Dinuguan" meaning made of blood.  Pig's blood is commonly used.  I also use it to make some Italian dishes.

Same with the mint, you can use your oregano fresh or dried.  It is a perennial plant you can keep for a long time.  You can dry them by cutting the sprigs, bundling them together, and drying them upside down by hanging in a cool dry place for about three weeks.  When they dry,  you can keep them in jars with a tight lid and store them for future use.  Just don't forget to label each jar and put the date on them.  This way you can distinguish one from another.  Thyme and oregano might look similar when dried and if they're not labeled, you might use the wrong herb and ruin your dish.

My green onion grew so tall and the leaves were bent, most likely from the wind or because it cannot support itself from it's height and weight.  This is one herb I use a lot.  I put green onion in almost everything; omelets, soups, and as garnish to all my noodle dishes. You can also dry it like the way you dry the other herbs as I have mentioned earlier.  The only thing different is, I would cut them with a kitchen scissors 1/4", the size I prefer to dry and store them. You can either air dry them by putting in a bowl and covering them  with a screen food cover or by putting a cheese cloth on top of the bowl and securing it with a string so no bugs will get into them.  After two or three weeks, keep in a jar and cover with a cap. 

You can also dry them by putting them in the oven on a baking tray. Keep the temperature to 'warm' for  6 to 10 hours or more. I also accidentally discovered drying herbs by refrigerating the chopped herb (Italian parsley) for a few days.  This happened when at one time, after dinner, we had so much chopped Italian parsley which we used to sprinkle over our pasta.  I saved and kept them in the ref and days after, I discovered they dried up.  Just cover them or better still keep them  in a jar with the lid on.  You don't want the smell of the other foods in your ref to get absorbed by your herbs.  I was fascinated to find out a few days later that they practically dried so well.   

There are other ways on what to do and how to keep your herbs  in your garden. I'm sure if you research online you can find other ways. These are how I do mine and I have proven them to work for me.  I'm sure it will for you too. 

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