Cooking with fresh herbs by simply reaching out a hand to snip is a succulent little joy. In our home, we love to grow herbs and greens indoors throughout the year, and as many as possible.
Not only do herbs in the kitchen make for fresh snips on hand, indoor planting can prove superior to growing them amongst outdoor vegetables. Many herbs are prolific as “weeds” and potentially may take over the whole garden, with underground shooter roots which silently travel for yards before popping their heads.
I once lost half of our strawberry plot to rogue oregano which is rather difficult to contain in a raised bed garden. Similarly mint makes it’s way through and among just about any veggie plot, raised bed or even gravel pathway. Creating a squadron of herbs in pretty pots inside keeps these little soldiers under better control.
Growing indoor herbs is fairly low maintenance and is an easy way to involve children with gardening. My daughter enjoys stripping the the tiny branches after we hang-dry the herbs, and her little fingers are ideal for the job.
Drying snipped branches in bunches can take a week or two inside, depending on the leaf sizes and general humidity level. Especially in more humid climates, consider grinding down larger leaf herbs when jarring for dry storage. This helps ensure you have removed all the moisture from the plant.
Try using a mortar and pestle by hand rather than an electronic device. This gives more control and avoids totally pulverizing the herbs into powder, which removes taste over time.
In addition to standards like basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, this last fall we brought in the cayenne peppers that were not yet ripe in the garden to finish their season indoors, which was a total success. Peppers are also amendable to drying, given a sunny, south facing window, but may take a good couple weeks of observation and turning. Again, with mortar and pestle, grinding dried cayenne peppers proves perfect for dishes like curries or dry rubs for grilled meats.
Kitchen Herb Garden Methods
1 ~ Seed herbs indoors anytime; try cilantro, cumin, basil, oregano, chives, rosemary, mint or any herbs you use most often in cooking.
2 ~ Keep soil consistently moist; watch for browning leaves, and if so, reduce water.
3 ~ Prune to prevent spindly plants. An herb like chives can grow in clumps, as can oregano, mint and cilantro. Others like rosemary and basil are longer lasting plants and need a few inches between them to grow well.
4 ~ Snip and consume at will. If any of your herbs get gangly or start to flower, simply snip the tops and the plant will bush out and grow further.
5 ~ When herbs prove abundant, dry by grouping them into 1 ” diameter bunches or less and tie off with twine (I use twisty ties I save throughout the year), then hang in a dry location. Drying can take one to two weeks. Be sure your herbs are crispy dry because if not they can mold when stored.
NOTES on locales for starting a kitchen herb garden
Check out Live In Art, an informative, locally based blog that includes herbal recipes and methods for making home made herbal salves.
Organic and heirloom seeds may be purchased in our local Methow area at Local 98856.
For local Methow producers of herbs, greens and other goods, check out GLOVER STREET MARKET in Twisp, or purchase their Sowing Seeds organic seed stock onsite.
Local herbalist Rosalee De la Foret’s website Methow Valley Herbs includes reliable information on medicinal herbs and history.
Love from our kitchen garden to yours, Georgina @ Soul & Stomach