Saturday, 4 July 2009

Summer herbs

July is a good month for picking fresh herbs - plenty of sun to bup the volatile oil content, resulting in the most flavour. Pick on a dry day round about noon for best results, but any time is good for herbs really if you're like me and don;t get aroudn to it then. I find I usually have to do things when I think about them or I forget!
Most herbs are best used fresh, and very few dry satisfactorily in my view; the only ones I'm happy with are oregano, marjoram and bay. I picked a big bunch of oregano on Wednesday, and it's almost finished drying now - on a paper-lined rack over the stove. It will get roughly crumbled into an airtight jar and stored in the dark larder for winter use. I freeze basil, as it is totally dismal once dried.
Another one I processed this week was calendula, and made some oil - looks like sunshine in a bottle to me!

That'll be sued for making soap and salves when it's ready in a few eeks time. Very easy to amke - pack a jar with fresh calendula petals (orange parts only) and pour over some good quality oil - I used sunflower oil for this. Use a knife to make sure there are no air pockets, and top up with oil so all the petals are fully covered. Put the cover on and leave on a sunny windowsill for 2 - 3 weeks, then strain and label. Make sure thee jar is very dry, and the petals, as water will cause them to mould.
The basil is doing very well, but I freeze that in ice cube trays ( did a post on this last year, I think) for winter pizzas etc. I'll be sowing some more soon, though, so I can have fresh in the kitchen all through the autumn.
The lemon herbs are good now - balm, verbena. Lemon balm makes an excellent wine, and a good fresh tea, calming and upliftin (as is the wine LOL). Tarragon I use for tarragon vinegar.
To make herb vinegars or oils, just put your chosen herb into a clean, dry jar, top up with oil or vinegar and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks. Remove the herb, or leave for a stronger flavour as it develops.
Herb teas are good to make, and go a long way in the old self-reliance stakes - just a big cup of hot water (nice to boil it outside on a real fire or kelly kettle for full effect!) and a good sprig of chosen herb. Summer in a cup.:)

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