How to Grow, Use, and Keep Fresh Herbs

Herbs are so heavenly.  Not only are they filled with nutrition to lower cholesterol and improve circulation and immunity, they give everything a taste of fresh summer.  A bite of excitement.  A perk to the senses.

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If you aren’t used to having fresh herbs in your food, it may take a little bit to get used to.  One might be more accustomed to mint in their tea than mint in their salad!  Just start small and add more as you go.

Try cilantro on top of Asian, Indian, or Mexican food.

Parsley is nice atop savory dishes.

Basil and Oregano, of course, are the king and queen of Italian food.

Thyme is delightful baked on top of squash halves and potatoes.  Same with rosemary.

Soups adore to be simmered with dried herbs then topped with croutons and fresh herbs.

Rice with mint or couscous or in salad is refreshing.  A mixture of herbs even better.

How to Grow

In the summer, herbs grow wonderfully in the garden.  In the winter, one might want to start some in a window sill.  The plastic containers used to hold washed salad from the store are great for starting plants.  Fill 3/4 of the way with potting oil and dampen.  Sprinkle seeds on top.  Sprinkle a light amount of soil on top.  Spray with a water bottle and put lid on.  Set in sunny spot.  Use water bottle to keep seeds from drying out.  The lid does create a greenhouse effect.  Don’t overwater or the seeds will mold!  If the top soil is getting dry, give it a good spritz.  When seedlings are an inch or so tall, remove lid and continue to grow delicious herbs!

How to Chiffonade

This is the best way to chop herbs.  For leafy herbs, roll several leaves together into a small log then starting at the end slice them into small ribbons.  Smaller herbs can be minced.

How to Store

The best way to keep fresh herbs, whether harvested or store bought, is to keep them in water like a nice bouquet of flowers.  My basil actually grew roots after four weeks!  But usually fresh herbs will last about a week to ten days.  Cilantro likes to be in water in the refrigerator.  They lose their oils over time so do attempt to use them as soon as you can.

How to Use Fresh Herbs

20180227_204739Fresh herbs are delicious and very good for you.  It takes awhile to get used to their intensity, but once you start using fresh herbs it becomes second nature.  Those crisp, strong flavors adds pizzazz to any dish.  Most of the time you will add fresh herbs at the end of cooking.

Using scissors is the easiest way to clip or chiffonade herbs.  For large leaves like basil and sage, roll into a tight roll and clip into ribbons.  The best way to store fresh herbs is like fresh flowers.  Place them in a glass of water in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle ribbons of fresh basil on pastas and pizza.

Clip oregano leaves on to pizza or put in crust before baking.  Fresh oregano livens up red and green chile.

Chives top salads and potatoes and soups.

Saute olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, a little salt and pepper, with sage leaves for a delicious pasta with sage sauce.

Roast root vegetables with rosemary, sage, thyme.  Or for a fresher taste, top roasted potatoes with herbs.

Cilantro goes beautifully piled on top of beans, rice, guacamole, or tortilla soup.

Mint and parsley with garlic and lemon liven up veggie meats and vegetables.

Be brave!  And add spice, health, and freshness to supper.  Make sure you plant these lovely herbs.  They are even better straight from the garden!

The Apothecary Garden

An Apothecary Garden is an important addition to any farm whether your plot is an apartment balcony or large acreage.  Herbs easily grow in pots on the porch or a south window in the house or in their own space in the garden.

IMG_0658 (Rosemary increases focus and memory)

Apothecary gardens have been a staple in every culture around the world for many, many centuries.  The religious leaders were generally the herbalists, medicine men, and healers of the village.  Herbs have amazing healing powers and are every bit as effective and much more safe than pharmaceuticals.  Herbalists have been known as healers since the beginning of mankind.  Sometimes these things are met with cynicism.  I know how to make a broken bone heal in two weeks.  Folks that aren’t aware of herbs are confused about this.  My own family stems back to the Salem witch hunts where many of my herbalist ancestors were burned at the stake.  Herbs are wondrous and miraculous, but met with confusion all the same.  My goal is to take the woohoo out of herbs.  They heal.  End of story. Now let’s get your Apothecary garden going!

IMG_0656 (Peppermint)

Peppermint is a staple everyone should have.  It is a mild pain reliever but its real job is in the digestive area.  It will calm an upset tummy, help stop heartburn, even heal stomach lining due to ulcers or colitis.  It is carminative, meaning it is anti-gas!  A cup of tea is delicious and with a little chamomile and ginger (which contain the same digestive properties) you will have a fine medicinal tea ready for the taking.

IMG_0657 (St. John’s Wort)

St. John’s Wort is becoming harder to find to grow, but if you can get it, grab it!  The pharmaceutical companies use a derivative of St. John’s Wort that is then lab created to make chronic pain medications and anti-depressants.  If you can change the structure of the constituent then you can patent it.  Can’t patent something God made up.  He was there first.  Therefore, you cannot make very much money peddling a plant.  Big pharma is after a bit more money than that.  Making a tea of St. John’s Wort flowers, leaves, and rose petals is every bit as strong as an anti-depressant/anxiety medication.  There are corporations out there that don’t want you to know that!

IMG_0659 (Roses)

Valerian is a beautiful plant that will get your sleep cycle back into a peaceful rhythm.  It is also an excellent pain reliever.  Add catnip and chamomile to go to sleep.  Add California Poppy and St. John’s Wort for an excellent sleep remedy.

IMG_0661 (Valerian)

IMG_0662 (California Poppy and Calendula)

Stinging Nettles will stop allergies in three minutes flat.  Take care when harvesting them (they aren’t called Stinging for nothing!) and dry them in a paper sack.  Crumble them up and make tea with them.

Dandelions can be made into tea or salad to help heal the liver and gallbladder.

Red Clovers help with women’s health, uterine health, and breast and uterine cancer.

So the weeds that pop up in the garden are there for a reason too!

There are Apothecary gardens that are designed in a circle with paths leading north and south, west and east.  There are Apothecary gardens that have winding paths.  I turned the front three feet of my long front yard into our garden.  The left side is medicinal plants and the right side are culinary (which also have medicinal qualities) herbs.  One large section of the garden holds the Poppies and Calendula (great for skin when infused into oil) to inspire beneficial insects to the garden.  Pots of herbs line the porch and in the winter are brought in to line the window sills.

Head to the nursery and see what you can add to your garden.  Want to learn more and completely take charge of your family’s health?  Look up my correspondence classes for Certified and Master Herbalists and take control of your medicine! http://gardenfairyapothecary.com

I am also leading an herb walk and medicinal tea talk Sunday, June 30th from 10-12 at Castlewood Canyon.  Meet at the visitor’s center.  Their cost is $7.

Making Extracts (cold medicine and vanilla)

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One for cooking, one for health:

For Health: Garlic and Herb with Echinacea Extract

Feel a cold coming on?  You will only have to start taking your new cold extract and you will feel better in no time!  The herbs in this mixture are anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, and specific to the lymphatic system and to the upper respiratory system.  And most of the herbs are in your cupboard!

In a pint jar add 1 clove of garlic (whole is fine), 1 Tb of basil, 1/2 ts of rosemary, 1/4 t thyme, pinch of ginger.  If you grow purple coneflower, aka Echinacea, then place 1 Tb of crushed leaves or a big flower of it.  You can get it from the health food store or online if necessary.  Fill jar with vodka, rum, brandy, or apple cider vinegar if you are averse to alcohol (the alcohol works the fastest though).  Shake daily and keep in window for a week.  Place in cupboard.  After four weeks, strain.  It is ready after a week, however.  Just dip your teaspoon in there.  You can put your teaspoon of ‘maybe not the yummiest concoction you ever made’ into a tablespoon of orange juice to help it go down! This works as cold medicine as well.  Take 1 ts as needed.  You cannot overdose!

For Cooking: Vanilla Extract

This one is much tastier.  In fact I insist that you put a little in your batter and have a thimble yourself.  Delicious! (And helps libido if you wanted it for health reasons!)  When recipes call for a teaspoon of vanilla extract I always double it.  This stuff is too good not to use plenty.  When you get to the store, check out the ingredients of store-bought vanilla extract.  You are making the same thing only fresher and more fabulous and you will save so much money!

In a pint jar place one whole vanilla bean (health food stores, online).  Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  Fill with brandy.  Let sit for a week in the cupboard before using it.  Don’t strain it!  When it gets half way down, add another bean, a touch of brown sugar, and top with rum.

Try adding a splash of vanilla extract and orange juice while making scrambled eggs.  We call them “sweet eggs”.  They are very good!