This was a cool dry morning so we harvested the herbs.
Here’s the herb bed…after harvest. The before shot is HERE if you missed it.
I harvested the Lavender awhile back, leaving enough for a dried herb rack.
The rest of our harvest will be dried for various uses over the fall and winter.
Chives: I use them fresh from the garden from very early spring through fall, mostly for culinary flavoring and garnishing where a mild onion flavor is appropriate. In years when they bloom profusely, I dry the flowers for fall and winter arrangements. Over the years I have found that it is also possible to dry the leaves, already cut into 1/4 inch segments for a touch of flavor in winter dishes. We tried freezing the segments one year, but that’s not a good plan. They lose all texture when thawed and leave you with little specks of green slime. Nope. Not a good idea.
Lemon Balm: I grow this plant in a container. Years ago, before I knew it was a member of the mint family and left unhampered would run all over the entire garden, I didn’t. Now I grow it primarily for the fragrance. Handling the leaves imparts a lovely, lemony smell with just a touch of mint to my fingers. I rarely pass by the herb bed without trailing my fingers over her, just to enjoy her gift of lemony sweetness. The leaves are best used fresh in cooking, by tossing a few in with salad greens, fruits; marinated vegetables, poultry or fish. Dried it can be used for tea, and centuries ago was considered to have a mildly calming effect.
St. John’s Wort: The yellow fuzzy flowers grow in our garden strictly for looks. I love ’em! If you pinch a petal it turns bright red. For centuries the plant was thought to have the power to drive out devils, and in early Christianity it was associated with St. John the Baptist, thought to bloom first on his birthday, June 24th. That must have been in Europe, because in Central California it blooms in May and early June. It is also tied by both name and legend to fairy lore and witchcraft. You may have seen it listed as an ingredient in modern antidepressant remedies. Like I said – I grow it for the beauty of the flowers! Period. This particular plant was started from a cutting I brought home from one of my morning walks along the creek, shortly after we moved to the cottage.
Nutmeg Geranium: One of the numerous varieties of Scented Geraniums available, this plant has smallish gray green leaves and tiny white flowers. I grow it because a dear gardening friend, now gone to be with the Lord, gave it to me when we first moved to the cottage in 1996. There have been times when I grew as many of the species and varieties of Scented Geraniums as I could, from Lemon and Rose to Apple and Lime. Once I figured out making Rose or Lime scented sugar to dust on top of cookies was way too fiddlin’ a business for me and I could use the space for other things I liked better my Scented Geranium phase was over. This old friend is the only plant I’ve kept, and at times it’s been touch and go just keeping him alive. But, because of the sentimental value, he will occupy a corner in my herb bed and in my heart as long as he chooses to thrive there.
Sage, Rosemary & Thyme: All three of these herbs last year round in our climate, so I mostly just clip a few fresh sprigs for any recipe I’m making. For those times when only a dried herb will do, I simply pinch a twig out of my dried herb rack.
The bunches of herbs I saved to dry on a bamboo rack – ready for tying.
Here are the initial bunches of herbs, ready to go in the garden shed,
where they’ll dry very quickly, retaining a nice green color and strong smell.
When the first herbs are dry, probably in three or four days if temps stay in the 80° range, I’ll add some bundles of Bay Leaves and whatever else strikes my fancy to give the rack a nice full appearance.
I’ll let you know how they turn out when it’s all finished.