Herbs are excellent flavor enhancers for our meet, pasta, and vegetable dishes. Not only do herbs add flavor to our food, they also can provide to us added nutrients. By growing our own organic herb garden, we can have fresh, chemical free, herbs any time we want.
By growing an organic herb garden, we can more fully appreciate the full taste of the herbs. When the chemicals are used in the herb growing process, the natural taste of the herbs is altered. Once you use herbs from your own organic herb garden, you will taste what you have been missing.
Growing an Organic Herb Garden
Like discussed in the organic vegetable garden section; when it comes to planting an organic herb garden, the type of seeds used are of the utmost importance. You must be positive the seeds are completely and totally organic seeds. To get the full benefit of organic, the seeds have to be chemical and pesticide free.
An organic herb garden, just like an organic vegetable garden, should be mapped out on a piece of graph paper. This is especially useful for herbs; because some organic herbs will actually flourish more bountifully if they are planted next to other certain herbs. You can do some further research about this, or you can ask the staff at an organic garden supply store, to assist you with this.
When it comes to choosing which herbs to grow; in your organic herb garden, you have a large amount to choose from. Some of the more popular herbs include the following: Basil, chives, chamomile, parsley, oregano, lemon balm, and you can even grow catnip. The organic seed packets should provide the proper growing instructions; including when to plant them and precise directions how to plant them for maximum growing results.
Organic herb garden growing tips
Your organic herb garden will require plenty of water to flourish. You need to make sure you do not either over water or under water your organic herbs. Your organic herb seed packets should provide watering instructions. It’s strongly suggested you invest in a soil moisture testing kit. This kit will give you an accurate reading of how much moisture is in the soil.
Your organic herb garden would also greatly benefit from mulching and composting. It’s highly advantageous if you make your own organic compost. It’s very easy to make your own organic compost. (This is discussed more in-depth later on.)
You Have Organically Grown Herbs, Now What?
This section will cover some possible uses for your home grown organic herbs. The most common and easiest uses for your organic herbs is to dry them. To get optimal results for your dried herbs, you should pick them early in the day, when it’s cooler outside. To harvest your organically grown herbs properly for drying, you want to have a sharp pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Be sure to cut relatively large stems from your organically grown herbs.
Next, you have to wash the herbs gently. Remember, fresh herbs are delicate. After a gentle washing, place them on some paper towels, or a clean cloth. You want the paper towels or cloth to absorb all the excess water from the organic herbs.
After the excess water is gone, you want to lash them together in bundles. Once you have them tied into bundles, you want to hang them up. It’s best if you can hang them somewhere where they won’t be obtrusive to you or your family. It’s worthy to note; you should try and find a location which is a low moisture area, to get best results. You want to try and find somewhere in your house that is dry and arid. For example, the bathroom, or a wet, dank, basement or laundry room wouldn’t be ideal places to hang your organically grown herbs to dry. You may hang your organically grown herbs in direct sunlight. However, don’t be surprised if the natural color fades out some.
Once your organically grown herbs are 100% dried out, you can crush them up and put them in jars. The shelf life for organically grown, dried, herbs is approx. a year.
You can also freeze your home grown, organic, herbs. Freezing organically grown herbs is another excellent way to preserve the flavor and freshness of your herbs. To prepare them for freezing, you would harvest them the same way as you would to dry them. You would also wash them as previously described. Once washed, you want to lay them on paper towels or a clean cloth. However, the difference is, you want to turn them occasionally, while they are drying. It’s extremely important all the excess water has been absorbed out of them, when you are freezing them.
You should leave the flowers and leaves intact on the stem of your organically grown herbs. When freezing organic herbs; they retain their flavor best, if the flowers, leaves, and stems are left intact; when put into the freezer.
Once the excess moisture is completely gone from your organic herbs, place them in freezer bags. It’s a good idea to use a marker and write the date on the freezer bag. This is because frozen organic herbs are most flavorful if they are used within 6 months of freezing. When you want to use your frozen organic herbs, take them out of the freezer bag. Then just crumble off some leaves and put the unused portions into the bag and back into the freezer
Another popular use for organically grown herbs is to use them in herb vinegar. Herb vinegar is excellent to use on salads or a cooking additive when preparing vegetables. The flavor combinations are only limited by the herbs you grow and your imagination.
The supplies you’ll need for making herb vinegar are as follows:
Sterilized glass jar, with lid
Your home-grown, organic herbs
Just about any vinegar will do. White, wine, and cider vinegars are all fine choices. The only word of caution is that cider vinegar has a strong “bitey” flavor already. Therefore, you’ll have to compensate for that flavor when trying different flavor combinations of the herbs you want to use.
Herb vinegar preparation:
Harvest and wash your organically grown herbs, as discussed above. After they are washed, place them inside the jar. Pour in your choice of vinegar(s). Fasten the lid tightly to the jar. Let your herb vinegar stand for a few weeks. After you’ve left them sit for a few weeks, strain out the herbs. Once the herbs are strained, you’re ready to use it for cooking or salad dressing.
Lastly, you can use your organically grown herbs to make organic herb oil. Organic herb oil is excellent to use on salads and to cook with. Organic herb oil also makes a fantastic dip for bread. Believe it or not, you can also bathe with organic herb oil. Organic herb oil can also be used to moisturize your skin.
A HUGE word of CAUTION, when it comes to herb oil: You MUST keep it refrigerated. Herb oil is the ideal place for certain, including fatal, bacteria to live, grow, and thrive in. It is imperative you refrigerate your herb oil. It is also imperative you only keep the unused herb oil for 2 weeks, if fresh herbs were used, in the preparation of the herb oil. After 2 weeks, throw it away! If you didn’t mark a date on the jar and don’t know how long it’s been in there, throw it away! Someone forgot to put it back in the refrigerator, throw it away! No exceptions!
If you prepare your herb oil with fully dried out herbs; you can store the unused herb oil, in the refrigerator, for up to 4 weeks. Once again, when the four weeks are up, throw it away. If you didn’t mark a date on the jar and don’t know how long it’s been in there, throw it away! Someone forgot to put it back in the refrigerator, throw it away! No exceptions!
The supplies you’ll need to make herb oil are as follows:
A sterilized jar, with lid
Your home-grown, organically grow, herbs (either fresh, frozen, or dried. Remember, if you use dried herbs, you’ll be able to store the unused portion in the refrigerator longer.)
You can mix the herbs with any oil you prefer. If you’re going to use the herb oil primarily for cooking, it’s highly recommended you use extra virgin olive oil.
Herb oil preparation:
Pour the oil of your choice into your jar. You want to make sure the jar is filled about half way full with oil. Next, put your herbs into the oil. After all your herbs are in, fill the jar completely up with oil. Lastly, place the lid onto the jar tightly. Label the date and refrigerate promptly.
As you can see, there are many uses for organically grown herbs. You will save money by not having to buy your favorite herbs at the store anymore. You can just grow them yourself. You’ll also notice a huge taste difference of your organically grown herbs, compared to store bought ones.