Sunday, May 13, 2012


One of the best things you can do for yourself, is grow your own herbs. It's not that hard and you'll be so glad when you have those fresh herbs to use next winter. Plus you'll save a lot of money and the herbs are much better than what you buy all dried up and in a little bottle and have to pay $5 for them.

Sweet bay is a good example. You pay a small fortune for a few dried up leaves of bay, so you use it sparingly.

If you take the time to search for a sweet bay plant and grow your own, it will be time well spent. The plants are hard to root so trust me, just buy one instead of trying to grow it. It takes two years for them to root and then you'll be lucky if you get one.

Just getting a small plant will probably cost you several dollars. A larger plant could run you between $10 and $30, depending on the size. It's worth every penny and from then on you can use as much bay as you want for free. If you can find someone online, who grows them, they probably won't have very many. So pre-order if you can, and pre-pay if you must. Whatever it takes to land one of these.

I promised several people  I would start them one several years ago. I tried year after year with no success. I finally gave up.

I ordered a small one a few years ago. It's now in a BIG HUGE pot. It goes outside in the summer and comes back in before the first frost. I harvest it every fall, cutting it back to about two feet tall or a little more. It will never put out new growth until Spring, so you just water it ever-so-often and it will be happy all winter.

When I harvest it, I wash the stems, cut the stems into pieces that will fit into a gallon zip lock bag and let them drain a little. Keep the leaves on the stems. When you need to use 2-4 leaves, just leave them on the stem and throw them in the pot. That way you can remove them from the pot without having to dig around in the pot trying to find a little dried leaf. I then pack the stems into a zip lock bag and freeze them. It's that easy. And I hope you all know you cannot eat bay leaves or they will slice up your stomach and intestines.

Most of your other herbs will reproduce all year if you keep harvesting them.

Sage is another herb I can't live without. I use lots of it fresh and it's easy to grow in a pot. Water it and it must be kept in full sun if possible. I keep mine outside until the first frost. Then I prune it back, just leaving a couple of sets of leaves on each plant stem. Just like the bay, I wash, cut stems into pieces that will fit in a zip lock ad freeze.

I do the same with rosemary, chives and thyme. The only difference with thyme, it's perennial, crawls along the ground so doesn't need to be brought in. But I do prune it and freeze it in a small zip lock since it's so tiny. DON'T OVER DO THE FRESH THYME IN A RECIPE. That is potent little stuff. Just one small stem in a pot will be sufficient. Just freeze the chives in stems and cut them up when you're ready to use them.

I also freeze my fennel, providing the butterflies have left me any. I don't grow the kind that has a bulb, and the butterfly larva just love it. I grow it for them so they'll leave my other herbs alone.

I do not freeze my parsley but keep it in the house all winter. Parsley has a two-year life cycle so you'll have to replant. If you're in a zone where you can grow it outdoors, let some of it go to seed and you'll have new plants in the spring. Cover it with straw and it will survive the winter just fine.

The only herb I freeze differently is basil. I harvest it all summer long so it keeps branching out. When I harvest, I wash, drain, and chop it finely. When I put it in the zip lock bag, I pour a very small amount of Virgin Olive Oil in the bag and mix it into the basil. When I add more basil to that bag, I just mix some of that oil onto it. It keeps your basil from freezing into an ice chunk, so you can remove whatever you need when you cook.

There is nothing better than a salad with lots of fresh basil mixed into it.