Using Herbs From A Home Herb Garden

Anyone who knows anything about herbs knows how useful they are in so many ways.  You may have purchased your herbs at the local market or from a health store but now you are ready to reap their benefits from the comfort of your own home.  Herb gardening can be very rewarding but once you have planted the herbs and watched them flourish, it will take a bit of work on your part to actually be able to use the herbs from your home herb garden.

Before you can use your herbs, they will need to be harvested and this is best done in an environment free from wind and heat as these elements can disperse the essential oils in the herbs.  The best time to harvest is on a calm and dry morning in midsummer.  On wet days, fewer oils will be produced so make sure the dew has dried before beginning.  When harvesting, do not remove the entire plant, just take a certain amount of growth for use and try not to take more than a third of the plants foliage at one time as the plant will need a certain amount to help it grow again.  Another important thing to do is inspect the plant for insects and damage.  Harvesting also does not mean using the herbs as soon as you pick them because they can be preserved for later use.

There are three ways to preserve herbs for future use:

  1. Drying
  2. Freezing
  3. Preserving them in a salt or vinegar.

When drying herbs, bundle six to twelve stems together and remove any foliage near the base of the stems and secure the bundle with a string. Hang away from sunlight in a cool area.  To dry individual leaves, place them on a screen or rack and turn them often so they dry properly.  Some people claim appliances such as dehydrators and microwaves are a good way to dry herbs, but the results are not as good.

Freezing herbs is probably the easiest way to preserve herbs.  First, cut the herbs into quarter-inch pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  After they are frozen, place the herbs in a bag and store in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

The third way to preserve herbs depends on the type of plant you are trying to preserve.  For example, a medium like vinegar can be used to preserve herbs such as chopped mint, basil and tarragon.  This method of preservation will keep your herbs good for several months.

You may not want to preserve all of your harvested herbs.  Instead, you may want to use some of them straight from the garden.  An important thing you must do before using herbs in fresh recipes is cleaning your herbs.  Place them in a bowl filled with cool water, add two table spoons of salt and watch as it drives away insects without causing any damage to the plant. To dry the herbs, use a salad spinner.

This articles touched on some main points about home herb gardening but the research you do will be key to your success with your new-found hobby.  Because every herb is different and requires certain elements from you to thrive, it will be important to learn the specific needs and requirements for the types of herbs you plan to grow in your garden.