Preserving Garden Herbs for Winter. 

Winter is coming. Anyone out there a Game of Throne-ers like us…? Yes? No? Well anyway…. winter is literally just round the corner here in the PNW, we'll not really since it's fire season here and fires are raging not far off. But with all these fresh herbs filling my house and garden I can't bear the idea of not having some around to lift up my stews and season our meals. Oh those long cold days. How wonderful that sounds right about now. So heres just a few ways I'm preserving my herbs:

  1. Drying
  2. Freezing in olive oil
  3. Infusing in olive oil & vinegar
  4. Pesto!
  5. Extracts and tinctures.

So most of you probably know how to dry herbs, but if not here's the short and sweet version. Bundle and tie herbs together and hang upside down, preferably somewhere away from dust and moisture. Once dry remove leaves from stems, crush or leave whole and store in an air tight container.

  • Currently hanging: Greek oregano, chives, lime and Thai basil. Today I plan to put up some pineapple sage to dry also.

  • Finished product: Greek oregano

Note: With all of the following recipes be sure to pick of any bugs and shake off any dirt hanging on so they/it won't end up in your finished product. I also rinsed all my herbs in cold water and patted them dry.

One of the best ways to preserve that fresh taste is to freeze an herb in olive oil. At the time I did this I had an over abundance of basil so that's what I did plus I love the flavor and olive oil is my chosen cooking oil other than the animals fats. So I simply cut up my basil with some herb shears, covered the bottom of my ice cube tray with the cut herbs and poured the oil over to cover.

  • After freezing overnight.

When it comes to infusing oils and vinegars it's as simple as stuffing a jar full of dried or fresh herbs and pouring the liquid over the top. Make sure all the plant matter is covered in the case of olive oil so as to avoid mold. I infused olive oil (any other oils work also; avocado, canola, etc.) with all kinds of basils and oregano. I infused vinegar with the basil also. These will both be used for salad dressings and cooking in the winter. Put them in a dark place to infuse for a couple months. If using fresh herbs you may encounter some cloudiness in your oils due to the water in the leaves. If so just leave off the lid for a day or so (if it's warm out) and the water particles will quickly evaporate. Below are a few of the infusions.

  • Vinegar left and olive oil right.

I don't know about you but I love pesto! And anyway I can get it cheaper than the store is right up my ally. Most of the ingredients are common stock for most kitchens, simply source yourself some pine nuts and you're on your way! I found a few great recipes on Pinterest.
Hint: fresh basil from the garden works best!

  • If you want this to last I suggest doing a double batch in order to freeze some and eat some fresh. As you can see mine is halfway gone… Can you say yum?!

Extracts and tinctures sound harder than they are and some recipes call for a little more measuring than I chose to do. I made it simple like Shaye from The Elliott Homestead with her echinacea tincture. I stuffed my jars full of these herbs and dumped vodka on them. My currents extractions and tinctures consist of echinacea tincture (recipe courtesy of The Elliott Homestead as I stated above) and chocolate mint extract. Very soon I'll be making my own homemade vanilla extract for which I might consult an actual recipe since it seems it needs to be a little more exact. As for the mint and echinacea I did as follows. Prepare clean jars. Clip fresh herbs. Leaves and stems (echinacea also the blossoms). Stuff in jars. Pour vodka completely over foliage so it is entirely submerged. Fasten with air tight lid. Boom.

  • Pow Wow Echinacea
  • Freshly stuffed jar of Echinacea.

  • After a few days the flowers will lose their bright color

  • Chocolate Mint extract

  • I highly suggest labeling everything you extract, tincturize, or infuse. Herbs lose their form and color slightly and it can be hard to tell what's what after a few days. Been there, done that. Labels are you friend!

Well there you have it! Many ways to save those fresh herbs. From freezing over night, drying for a weekish, or waiting those few months to use your yummy garden goodies you'll be set for winter. It's well worth it folks. Make sure you prune your herbs regularly so they stay around longer and don't bolt. Once they do save those seeds folks! Aaaaand don't forget to start more herbs for your fall garden, if you treat them right you may be able to keep them inside for the long haul!

Purple basil anyone?

Peace and Love,
Quincy

SEED STARTING INDOORS

Around my corner of the world starting seeds indoors is a must. Unless you have a green house, in which case, you’re off to a great start. 

But if you don’t have a green house, like me for example… creativity or capital, is a must!

Since I refuse to spend crazy amounts of cash on trays and those little starter pellets (that totally used to be me guys…) I decided to try creativity this season.  

In this case creativity comes in the form of solo cups and some other random dollar store plastic cups. I had some laying around and picked up a few more packs for cheap. 

I normally hate anything plastic but I can recycle these and until I can buy this soil block press, here is how I’m getting creative. 

(I even tried this Pinterest hack in which you use toilet paper rolls as seed blocks, two words… Epic Failure… You can see below how most of them just plain feel apart.. If you want to give this a shot then I suggest buying tp that’s got a reinforced cardboard rolls.)

  

But I’m doing good with the cups and I’m ok with that. 

     
Luckily the homestead husband has an awesome set up of some light hoods perfect for starting seeds. Not that I have always done it like this. Don’t get me wrong starting seeds without lights can and does work great, for most seeds. 

However, for those finicky starts that tend to be on the picky pampered side (tomatoes, peppers, corn, etc), a little light and added warmth makes all the difference. 

For example. Last season I started corn under the lights and it was the first year I’ve ever planted corn, had it grow knee high by 4th of July (to ensure harvest), and proceed to grow 8′ tall! I was astounded when I had tons of silk and cobs, but so to was my horse… Alas she ate them all… I’m sure her belly was full and warm that night. This year she will have no such luck!

My point being that I believe the lights were the key to my success last year. When those corn starts went outside they were stout and hardened off. Ready to for planting. Corn starts in my previous years were lanky and washed out, ending up broken from wind or lack of strength. 

  
(Above: assorted bean starts)

Now that I thoroughly bored you with my corn story… Want to see what else we have started so far?

For convenience I have labeled, in parenthesis, which seed companies I purchased the seeds from. 

SSE= Seed Savers Exchange

 MTG= Mike the Gardener

TSC= Territorial Seed Company

  • Tomatoes: Amish Paste(SSE), German Pink(SSE), Homestead(MTG), Large Cherry(MTG)
  • Cucumber: White Wonder(MTG), A&C Pickling(SSE)
  • Beans: Cherokee Wax(Ferry Morse), Dragons Tongue(SSE), Calypso(SSE), Black Turtle(Ferry Morse)
  • Sunflowers: Lemon Queen(SSE), Velvet Queen(SSE), Taiyo(SSE) 
  • Peas: Amish Snap(SSE)
  • Pumpkin: Small Sugar(TSC)
  • Radish: Cherry Belle(TSC)–direct sow (4/15)
  • Turnip: Shogoin (MTG)–direct sow (4/15)
  • Cabbage: Savoy(MTG)
  • Kale: Dwarf Green Curled(TSC)
  • Corn: Smoke Signals(SSE), Golden Bantam Improved(SSE)
  • Lettuce: Red Iceberg(TSC) 
  • Peppers: Early Jalapeño(TSC), Purple Beauty(MTG) 
  • Squash: Black Beauty Zucchini(SSE) 

It may seem like quite a lot but this is only the beginning. I am going all in this year and I’m extremely motivated to provide as much food for my family as possible. I’m dreaming of shelves full of canned goods and cold storage packed with roots vegetables. 

  

 (Above: assorted sunflower starts… Because their are my favorite… And they do fantastic in my living room window, so I never have to miss out on their beauty!)

Who knows, if I’m satisfied with my gardens production this summer I may put a chicken garden into the works. Wouldn’t it be stellar to have a garden space specially for spoiling our flock of little dinos?

Yes, I totally said stellar. 

Getting to getting outside. Get to work!

Quincy