Herbin' It Up

| 11/23/2015 12:05:00 PM

Sheila JulsonWe’ve had a freakishly mild fall here in Wisconsin — can’t say if that’s good or bad. Despite my climate change concerns, I enjoyed taking advantage of a longer than usual growing season, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I rescued the last of my herbs from an upcoming cold front that by now has blasted its way through the Great Lakes region.

I’ll have fresh sage just in time for Thanksgiving cooking. I’ll also dry some out to use throughout winter. I rarely buy basic dried herbs from grocery store spice department anymore, since they’re so easy-peasy to grow and use, fresh or dried.

Except for basil. That’s one herb that when I try to grow from seed, has stymied me for years. Pre-purchased plants seem to do okay, but my basil starts from seeds grow so ridiculously slow that my husband and I coined the term “basil-ing it” to describe anything that takes a long time. But more on basil later.

Since early October, I’ve dried dill, rosemary, sage, lavender, parsley and thyme, as well as Thai chili peppers to crush into pepper flakes to sprinkle on pizza. For the herbs, just pick a cluster, tie the end of the stalks with baker’s twine, and hang upside down from just about anywhere there’s room. I’ve already dried herbs from the ends of kitchen curtain rods, plant hangers, and hallway coat hooks.

Once the herbs are hanging to dry, you can forget them for a few days, but don’t let them stray too far off the radar because it’s possible for herbs to get too dry (too brown, they lose flavor and become compost). It’s best if the herbs retain a slight green tone, but still crumble when rubbed between your fingers.

Now about that basil. When my outdoor and indoor basil plants are spent, I buy living basil grown by a local aquaponics/hydroponics business. The live basil plant is rooted in water and is usually good for two to three cuttings. Someday I might try growing basil the aquaponics way and I'll be sure to share the story if I'm successful.