Raise Your Food

Raise your food – save money and be independent

Herbs in the Fall Garden

Written By: Julie - Sep• 15•13

preserving herbs green onion soupWhat do you do with your herbs in the fall garden? This is an excellent time to start saving herbs for winter – as well as growing a few that are hardy in cooler temperatures.

Nothing makes a winter meal taste better than fresh herbs. Some of the herbs from your garden can be potted up to bring indoors. If you plan to do this, be sure to research each variety. Some have different needs than others. For instance, rosemary hates being potbound so you’ll need to give it a very large pot and good lighting. Basil, rosemary, sage, parsley and chives are all good choices for a winter kitchen garden indoors.

Saving your harvest for the long winter is an even easier way to make sure you have fresh herbs all winter. Chopped parsley, basil, cilantro and similar herbs are delicious frozen into ice cubes. Just chop them and add a tablespoon or so to each cube in an ice tray. Add a little water to cover the herbs – then freeze. Bag the herb cubes, label the bags, and put them in the freezer. You can add a few cubes to soups, stir fries and other dishes as needed.

Drying herbs is also an easy way to preserve your harvest. Simply wash and drain each herb. Chop it as needed or leave sprigs of thyme or rosemary whole. Lay them out on cookie sheets or drying trays. I happen to have a really nice set of drying trays we have used for years. Keep them out of direct sunlight to preserve the natural volatile oils that impart flavor. You can dry them in the oven with the light on and the door cracked open (I used canning tongs to brace the door open a little bit). Or you can simply hang them in bunches to dry in a dust-free area away from direct sunlight. Once they are dry, they will taste fresh the longest if they are stored in glass jars (perfect chance to recycle!).

Dried herbs can also be used to make your own herbal vinegars or herb-infused oils. Be sure to get correct instructions for doing these safely as fresh herbs can cause botulism to grow in oils – and you do not want to mess with that!

Adding your herbs to spaghetti sauce, soup base, mint jelly, or salsa will also preserve that flavor! Each year at this time I can pizza sauce and seasoned tomato sauce, can or freeze spaghetti sauce and soups, and make oodles of salsa. These really light up winter meals and give me a head start when I need a meal in a hurry. If you are going to can your bounty – be sure to follow good canning practices. You can learn more about canning at http://www.pickyourown.org and http://www.freshpreserving.com. Canning is easier than you might think and helps stretch our food budget. This year I will have 400 jars of sauces, soups, jams, applesauce, fruit slices, and other yummies ready for the long winter – in addition to our winter garden and a freezer full of chicken, turkey and frozen fruits, veggies and other delights.

I like to chop green onions, red peppers, celery and carrots and layer them in jars. Then I freeze them for fast meals. I can thaw in the microwave, toss them in a pan and be halfway to dinner in no time at all.

Finally, wintering some herbs in the garden is a delightful way to hold onto summer. Chives, cilantro, green onions, parsley and rosemary can all be kept going in a well-protected cold-frame or small greenhouse even in colder climates. If you are in the warmer areas you can potentially grow parsley and cilantro all winter.

Don’t overlook garlic – while it is not ready to eat in winter – it must be planted in the fall in cooler climates. Plant in October, mulch before the worst of winter hits, remove the mulch in spring, and harvest in June.

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One Comment

  1. Erin Hatton says:

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing! I especially like the idea of layering chopped veggies in a jar and freezing. Great idea!

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