Saturday, September 11, 2010

Flavouring with fresh and dried herbs

Our use of fresh and dried herbs is something we have increased since growing our own food. Compared with those that can be bought pre-packed, fresh or home-dried wins every time. It is important to harvest the herbs at the right time to maximise the essential oils that are present - usually first thing in the morning after the initial dew has dried is the best time. Fresh herbs can be picked as and when but to get the best out of them, we have found that harvesting before the heat of the day draws out their oils, works well.

Fresh Basil
We currently grow a range of herbs, mostly traditional and well known such as Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Parsley (curly and flat leaf) Thyme, Coriander, Mint (several types) Chives (plain and garlic) and Fennel. We dry few of the herbs we grow as we are fortunate enough to live in a climate that is conducive to growing  throughout the year. One of our main crops that we do collect and dry is the Cretian Oregano - a pungent and aromatic variety that we use regularly in cooking. We harvest several large bunches each year about a third of which we will use and the rest gets used by Luis' family for making chorizo and salami.

Oregano drying on the lazy Susan in the workshop
Mints, lemon Verbena and Rosemary are also grown to use fresh for infusions instead of tea and coffee. We also occasionally make tinctures to add to home made hand cream.
There are too many taste combinations to list but favourites include the classic fresh home grown tomatoes and basil, pumpkin and sage, carrot and coriander, minted cous cous, parsley and garlic pasta, rosemary and roasted vegetables, oregano and just about anything... I could go on but I am beginning to feel rather hungry.

Sage amongst other plants
Whilst we do have a dedicated herb bed we often cultivate herbs in amongst other plants and shrubs.

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