Cooking with fresh herbs and flavors from your own garden is wonderful, and for many people herbs are the first step into the world of growing edibles. Having them available in the cold months is the next best thing.
Hanging a bundle of herbs upside down to dry looks delightful, but keep in mind as they do dry they will begin to flake off onto counters and floors. Likewise, spiders find them to be a great foundation for a web. If you are planning to dry a fair amount of a few varieties, you may want to try something a little neater.
In an otherwise unused area, place an herb bunch upside down into a brown paper lunch bag. Label with the name of the herb, tie or clip closed, and hang to dry. Any of the dry leaves that fall off will stay inside the bag, keeping your space neat and your efforts more productive.
This works beautifully for most plants. Basil, not so much. It will dry, but it turns a nasty dark color. Don’t get me wrong, we do dry some—only for dishes where color doesn’t matter. For the most part we freeze basil. Just remove the leaves and place loosely onto a wax paper–lined cookie sheet in the freezer. Once it's frozen, put the basil in any freezer-safe container. It is so easy to just grab what you need and crush right into your dish. We also dry lavender this way, saving the flowers for cooking.
Chives do really well frozen. Make a bundle of cuttings, and roll it jelly-roll style in waxed paper. Freeze, then wrap again with some plastic. You can just slice off what you need.
Dried celery leaves can replace pepper in many recipes. We use a dehydrator in this case, but a very low temperature setting on the oven can also quickly do the trick. Then just store on the shelf with your other seasonings.
Even easier to make is citrus zest. Grate the clean skin of lemons or oranges, and spread out onto a cookie sheet. Let air dry overnight and it is ready to store and have on hand as you need it.
Should you decide you want to grow even more seasonings, check out our blog linked below. There is information there on roasting onion greens and making garlic powder. Recently we dehydrated cucumber slices and ground them into a delightful seasoning to add to salad dressings and green smoothies. We are currently getting ready to dry some ginger and powder that as well.
This is what can happen when your garden and your kitchen get together.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more at her blog.