Using herbs to flavor food is a great idea. Not only do herbs make food tastier, but they also have medicinal properties that aid digestion. Lately, herbs, like everything else, have become more expensive. A more cost effective option that adds money to your pocket and flavor to your meals is to grow and dry your own herbs. It can be fun, especially if you have little helpers.
If you have a sunny spot — even one as small as a window sill — you can grow your own herbs at home. Choose the herbs that you use most to season food and grow them as close to the kitchen as possible so you don’t have far to go when you need them.
When growing herbs, treat them like any other plant. Pruning and cutting back the leaves brings even more leaves. As you cut and use fresh basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme, they will continue to grow. In fact, the herbs may grow faster than you can use them, so share some with friends and neighbors.
Most people use one of three drying methods — air drying by hanging the herbs, air drying on elevated screens, or drying in a dehydrator. Your choice of methods depends on the herb’s characteristics and what you’ll use it for.
Begin with your equipment. You’ll need a place to dry them. You can use wooden or wire racks. That cooling rack you use in the kitchen for cookies and cakes would be perfect for drying herbs. Gather together a colander, some cheesecloth, paper towels, and some string.
Don’t bother washing the herbs unless they’re muddy or dirty. If you do wash them, let the surface water dry before you bunch them to hang. A colander is perfect because the water can drain out the bottom. Use paper towels to pat each leaf and stalk until dry of any visible moisture.
Herbs can be dried in many ways. If you only want the leaves, remove the stalk and lay the leaves on a drying rack. Depending on the size of the leaves, you may need a wire rack for them as opposed to a cooling rack from the kitchen.
Herbs can also be dried in bunches. Tie them with string at the stalks and hang them upside down on a nail to air dry. This can be accomplished outside or indoors, but should be done in an area that is ventilated with no humidity. Humidity will help your herbs to retain their moisture and prevent drying. Use cheesecloth to cover herbs on a cooling rack if you plan on letting them dry outside.
Use the oven for faster drying. The temperature should remain low (around 120 degrees). Gently touch the leaves every half hour to test for dryness.
Dried herbs will keep for a six months. After that, the flavor begins to wane. Herbs should be stored in Mason jars or plastic containers, just be sure to label them so you know which herb is which. In order to keep the herbs dry and avoid molding during storage, seal the containers air tight.
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Number of Servings: 6
Cups of Fruits and Vegetables Per Person: 1.00
- 1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1-1/2 cups long grain brown rice
- 3-3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3/4 cups dry white wine
- 14 oz can tomatoes, chopped with juice
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp tarragon
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
- 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 3 cups mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 1/2 cup snow pea pods
- 2/3 cup frozen peas
- 1/3 cup cashew nut pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add paprika and rice and continue to cook for 4 -5 minutes or until rice is transparent. Stir occasionally. Add stock, wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, and herbs and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Add peppers, celery, mushrooms, and pea pods and continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until rice is cooked. Add peas, cashews, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through and place on a large heated serving dish.
Resource: Healthy Meal Planning