Along with the abundance of fresh, sweet vegetables coming from the garden, are an equal amount of herbs. This is a great year for them.
My parsley, both the curly-leaf and flat-leaf varieties, are more than filling up their assigned spaces in the herb bed. Before a final, heavy frost hits, I will dig up a good-sized clump of curly-leafed parsley and plop it into a large pot. That pot will then be placed just outside the kitchen door where it will likely provide us with fresh parsley for soups, stews, salads and anything else I decide to put it into until Christmas.
Our basil is also producing really, really well. Soon, we’ll make pesto and freeze it for use during the next few months. Some will be dried. I don’t like freezing basil, although some cooks have told me they have good luck with that form of preservation.
The regal dill not only grew where I had planted it, but also a few plants popped up in several other parts of the garden where it had been planted in previous years. I like to hang it to dry, then crush the seed head and store in a tightly-fitted glass jar for use in salad dressings, breads and salads. And of course, the dill weed is the most important ingredient in dill pickles or dilly beans.
The perennial herbs are also doing their part to provide lots of flavorings for meals to come. We’ll have oregano, thyme, tarragon, sage, bay leaf and a few others. Some will be placed in olive oil or vinegar that will be used to create a flavored salad dressing. Some will be dried.
Herbs provide the “spice” to food. I include in these flavorings garlic and onions as well, all of which have produced more than usual. Both garlic heads and onions are hanging in cool, dark places to dry so that they can be used for weeks. The garlic we grow generally lasts us until April or May. The onions don’t make it that long before starting to rot, but for the amount of time they are good, we enjoy them.
Drying herbs can take weeks unless we take a short cut and use the oven.
I’ve done this several times with very good success, particularly with parsley and basil. Friends and family members have received these dried herbs, right from my garden, as part of their Christmas gifts. This year, we plan to add herbal vinegars or oils to the gift baskets.
To dry herbs, simply remove the stem ends and place leaves one-layer deep, on cookie sheets. Place in a 225 degree oven.
Let “cook” for about 20 minutes, then check for “crispness.” Return to the oven if necessary, and let dry for another 10 minutes or so. Check again.
Make sure that the parsley or basil is thoroughly dry before removing from the oven. If it isn’t, it could mold. If it is completely dry, these herbs will last for more than a year. I have also made concoctions of several dried herbs to add flavor to soups and stews.
Then crush the dried leaves, let completely cool, then place in tightly-capped jars. Label and store. An eight-ounce jelly jar is usually enough to last most households a full year. Then it will time to use the fresh herbs growing in the garden again!
I like to try different recipes that use what I have growing. This is a new, very different potato salad from the traditional one I generally prepare mayonnaise using my freshly dug potatoes. Its main flavoring is fresh dill. It is delicious served with grilled steak or chicken.
Dilly Potato Salad (serves 4-6)
2 and a half pounds small, new potatoes
One-quarter cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons horseradish spread
2 small onions or scallions, minced
one-half cup chopped, fresh dill heads
one-half cup chopped fresh parsley (either curly or flat-leafed will do fine)
one-quarter teaspoon salt
one-quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook small, whole potatoes until tender. If using larger potatoes, cut in half or quarters. I also leave the skins on. Drain, then rinse with cold water. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, horseradish sauce, salt and pepper, dill, and onions. Add cooked potatoes and stir to coat. Refrigerate if not using immediately. When ready to serve, top with fresh parsley.
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