Herb drying guide:

To dry any fresh herbs, there are just a couple simple steps.  Make sure they are clean, then hang them upside down in a well ventilated and dry area.  in front of a window works fine.  When they are dried up you can remove the leaves from the stems and crumble them into a spice container.  

Other ways to preserve:

-Food dehydrator.  These work good for herbs, see device's manual for instructions.

-Freezer.  Freezing actually preserves flavor the best, just stick them in a freeaable container and pop them in.

-Cooking them into foods that will be canned or frozen is also a good choice.

 Basil

 Basil is thought to have come from Southern Asia and has been cultivated for over 5,000 years.  There are many varieties of basil that look and smell and taste different, from purple fluffy basil, to Thai basil that smells distinctly of anise.  Basil is a heat loving plant that cannot tolerate cold weather, so its growing season in the northeast is limited to summer.

Basil can be used in a wide variety of cooking, mostly notably in the cultures of southeast Asia and Italy.  It is the main ingredient in pesto, and can be used with many items.  Typically it is paired with tomatoes and/or cheese, especially mozzarella.  For a real punch of flavor, roll a fresh basil leaf around a cherry tomato.

A very tender herb, it is very sensitive to cold and physical damage.  We do not reccomend storing basil in the fridge, as parts of the leaves can turn black and start to rot.  It is also important not to crush or cut the leaves before you are ready to prepare them, as a similar blackening will likely occur.

Cilantro

Cilantro is an herb of the carrot family, along with dill, parsley, fennel, and anise. It is actually the vernacular term for "Coriander" which is the plant's real name, although what we see in spice bottles labeled coriander is actually the ground seed of this plant.  We generally refer to the leaves as cilantro, which have a different taste than the seeds.

 It is used all over the world, most notably in Indian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, German, and South African.  It is an essential ingredient in fresh salsa and guacamole, it is in most curries and dhal dishes, and it is an important spice in sausage.  But don't stop there!  Cilantro is on the rise worldwide, being relatively new to most places, and it can be used in many new ways. 

Like most herbs in this plant family, cilantro can be very polarizing - most people love it, but some people absolutely hate it.    On the hate side?  Check out I Hate Cilantro (An anti cilantro community) or just go there for fun!

Dill

Dill is most commonly found in our pickles; it is used with garlic, salt, and vinegar to season and preserve cucumbers.  But this little guy goes beyond that.  It is also commonly used to flavor fish, borscht and other soups, making dip for chips, potatoes, and flavors vinegar.

Dill's closest relative in the herb world is fennel, and although the leaves look the same dill does not form a bulb at its base.  It does produce big yellow flowers, which taste the same and can be used as the leaves are, and can be sometimes seen floating around in pickle jars.  



Garlic

Garlic has one of the strangest growth habits of any plant.  To grow a head of garlic, one must take a clove from another head, and plant it into the ground in October.  The clove sprouts roots out the bottom and gets established, then hangs on tight all winter.  Through snow and ice and freezing temperatures the clove survives and in the spring pushes a shoot out of the ground that grows into a plant.  At the base of that plant will form a whole head of garlic with many cloves, and the process continues.  In June the plant tries to flower, which is where garlic scapes come from (pictured lower left) , they are the flower and its stalk.  One must break off the flower  to ensure the plant saves energy in the bulb below ground, and since the flower and stalk taste just like garlic, we eat them as a spring herb.

Garlic is ubiquitously used and loved the world over.  It is often married with olive oil and/or tomatoes, as the combination is hard to beat.  Garlic is generally minced and sauteed in oil as the first step of soups, stir frys, and many other styles of cooking.  It can also be used raw, blended with basil and olive oil to make pesto.   Try mincing or smashing garlic and soaking in olive oil for an hour, then spreading on bread with salt and baking until toasted for the best garlic bread you've ever had! 

Mint

Mint is a highly aromatic herb of somewhat more limited use than most.  It grows exceptionally well in our area and is even considered invasive if it is not controlled.  Mint is also good at repelling insect pests and attracting beneficial insects, so its a good guy to have around.

Mint is usually used in a few ways.  It's of course a common flavoring of candy, gum, and toothpaste. Fresh mint is best used to flavor candy, syrups, or other sweets you might make.  Try it in a cake!  It's also used to make mint jelly, often considered indispensable when eating lamb.  Another great way to use mint is in drinks like mojitos and the mint julep.

Parsley

An herb in the Umbel plant family, it is a close relative of many other common vegetables and spices, including celery, dill, cilantro, carrots, anise, and fennel.  Parsley is one of the few herbs we grow that can overwinter, although Stone Soup grows it as an annual (meaning we reseed each year) because it is slow growing and easier to manage in the greenhouse. 

Parsley has a strong flavor that goes well with fish or in soups, and is often coupled with garlic, as it is in the Lebanese salad tabbouleh.  The flat leaf varieties (pictued on right) tend to be stronger flavored and better for cooking, while the handsome curly leafed varieties (left) are usually used as a garnish, but can still be used as an herb in cooking.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary is not just good, but also very good for you.  Did you know that it is extremely high in iron, calcium, and B vitamins?  It has also been known throughout time to improve memory, and recent studies show that it can shield the brain from free radicals, lowering the risk of strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's.   It is also thought to calm an upset stomach, and it contains other compounds which inhibit certain carcinogens in the body.

Rosemary grows as a perrennial shrub, but cannot tolerate the cold winters we have here. Since it grows very slowly, it is impractical to grow new plants each year.  For this reason, rosemary is the only crop we grow permanently in the greenhouse.   This way we can overwinter the plants rather than have to start from seed each year.


Rosemary is essential to most good potato dishes.  Try it in mashed potatoes or sprinkled over baked potatoes.  It also goes well with most meats, especially chicken and fish. It also works well in dishes with pasta and cheese, like lasagna or baked ziti.

 

Sage

Sage is an herb with both culinary and medicinal uses.  It has very potent essential oils and acids that have been shown in a range of studies to have beneficial effects on many ailments, ranging from helping as an antibiotic to broader conditions like Alzheimer's disease. 

But don't just use it for its health benefits, sage is a wonder in the culinary world too.  It is quite often used in meats, especially ones with a lot of fat, such as sausage oar mutton.  It is used in many marinades of meat as well as stuffing.  It can also go well with cheese, or sauteed in olive oil and served with pasta.  Make sure to check out our recipes page for more ideas.