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All Things Herbs

As a kid growing up every summer my family always planted a large vegetable garden,

but as an adult I wanted to grow more: herbs, dried flowers, cut flowers, pumpkins and

gourds, a tea garden, a butterfly garden, a bee habitat and pollinator area, and a medicinal garden!! I’m obsessed with plants and flowers, that’s why I work at Hillside Greenhouse!!

So today let’s talk about herbs. Having an herb garden of any size or style can be so rewarding. When growing herbs it’s always best to grow what you love, after all you’ll be eating them. Herbs are low maintenance plants that give you lots of harvests almost immediately after planting and don’t require a ton of sunlight or nutrients to grow. For a first time gardener, basil is the perfect trainer herb. It’s a quick grower and bounces back really well if not watered enough. Italian herbs are the most popular, pretty easy to grow, and can be incorporated into any bed, garden, or a pot by your kitchen door. Plant basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, or sage. These fresh Italian herbs can be added to any pasta dish, baked chicken, or roasted vegetables. Some of my favorite uses for them are a homemade olive oil salad dressing, sprinkled on homemade breads before baking, or used in a dipping oil for bread, yum!!

There are many more uses of herbs than just culinary. If you enjoy a good cup of herbal tea, try a tea garden. Herbal teas are a great way to enjoy your favorite teas straight from your own garden. Start with something basic like mint. No tea garden should be without it. It is refreshing whether served hot or cold. Lemon Balm is a favorite of mine. It combines well with other herbs, very good in sun tea, or just added to lemon water. Both of these plants can be invasive if given the chance, so keep them in check by growing in containers. We have plenty of those at Hillside to choose from!! Another favorite of mine is chamomile, a tiny daisy like flower that reseeds each year. Chamomile can help to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. So most evenings or whenever I have trouble sleeping, I brew up a cup of chamomile tea. Other great herbs to add to your tea garden are lavender, lemon verbena, feverfew, calendula, lemongrass, and lemon thyme.

After you have grown your herbs, you can preserve them for use all year long by drying them. There are three main ways to dry herbs: air dry, oven dry and with a kitchen dehydrator. You’ll want to make sure your herbs are clean before drying them. Shake them well and rinse any dirt away with water. Then pat dry with paper towels until no moisture remains.

Air drying is the most hands-off method and the one I prefer. You can tie them in bundles or lay them on screens in a cool, dark place and forget about them for 10-14 days. For oven drying, scatter the herbs on a baking sheet for 1-2 hours on 180 degrees F. Dehydrating, arranged in single layers, will dry in 1-3 hours at 90-115 degrees F.

After you have dried your herbs and there is no moisture left, place into glass jars or lunch bags. Always take time to label and date your containers and store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Store leaves whole and crush them once you are ready to use them, this will help retain more flavor. Dried herbs typically last 2-3 years. When cooking with herbs, keep a general rule of thumb in mind regarding the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you need less if they’re dry. That means the correct ratio is 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes that are simple and very easy to make.

Italian Seasoning

2 Tablespoons dried basil

2 Tablespoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

½ Tablespoon dried thyme

½ Tablespoon dried parsley

Chamomile Tea

1 teaspoon dried chamomile

½ teaspoon dried lemon balm

½ teaspoon dried rose petals

1 sprig of dried lavender

Add 1 cup of boiling water & steep for 3 minutes

Honey can also be added

Enjoy and see you soon at Hillside!

- Sarah

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