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How To Freeze Fresh Herbs And Pesto

September 18th, 2012

Many gardeners enjoy the early fall ritual of freezing annual herbs; especially basil, cilantro, chives, dill, parsley, as well as homemade pesto. This easy process requires minimal time and effort, and can make chilly weather soups, stews and sauces full of garden fresh flavor.

While freezing herbs can be done in bulk, the key to freezing pesto is to create serving size portions – perfect for drizzling over pasta or a homemade pizza. Pesto does not preserve well when it is re-heated and re-frozen. Therefore, creating individual portions allows the pesto to taste fresh with each use.

Ready to try?

How To Freeze Fresh Herbs

(Baking Sheet Method)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and carefully spread out the washed and dried herbs. Not allowing them to touch will prevent the herbs from freezing in a large mound. When frozen solid, place the herbs in lidded glass container back in the freezer. Once already frozen, the leaves will not clump together.

(Ice Tray Method)

After washing the herbs, place 2-3 individual leaves, or a spoonful of chopped herbs into ice cube trays. Fill the tray half full of water, gently ensuring that the leaves stay down. If a few leaves give you trouble, the next step should alleviate the problem.

Once frozen or mostly frozen, fill the remaining cubes with water, and freeze once more. When completely frozen, place the individual blocks of ice into a zip blog baggie, or a lidded glass container. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and drop the entire ice cube into soups, stews or sauces.

How To Freeze Fresh Pesto

Make your favorite pesto sauce (our favorite recipe is below), and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon out ¼ cup mounds of pesto onto the baking sheet and place it in the freezer. When they are frozen solid, wrap each portion with plastic wrap, and store them in a lidded glass container in the freezer.

 Fresh Basil-Chive Pesto

Recipe from The Happy Go Lucky Vegan

¼ cup pine nuts (almonds or walnuts will also work)

1-cup basil

2 tbsp chives, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic

½ lemon, squeezed

½ cup olive oil

½ cup water

Sea salt and pepper

Method: Add all ingredients except for the water into a blender or food processor. Slowly add the water to thin out as desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

**Fellow gardeners: what is your favorite way to use frozen pesto and herbs?

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Re-Grow Chives and Celery In 3 Easy Steps!

September 6th, 2012

Calling all thrifty gardeners! Did you know you can completely re-grow celery and chives by saving the bottom piece that is often thrown away? Take growing your own food to the next level and try this simple trick (and save money!).

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1: Remove the top edible portion of the celery or chives. It’s your choice whether you prefer to use the top portion as you need it, or to remove the top portion all at once after it’s harvested.

Step 2: Place the root end(s) in a shallow glass of room temperature water.

Step 3: If you are re-growing chives, leave the glass near a sunny window. Within a week, you will be able to harvest the flavorful green ends. Be sure to change the water every few days.

If you plan to re-grow celery, leave the celery in the shallow glass for only 2-4 days, or until you notice small leaves growing at the top. Transplant the celery to your garden. The celery will begin to grow stalks within a few weeks. If you find the celery needs further support as it grows, remove the top and bottom of a clean plastic soda bottle, and place it around the plant.

Get the Kiddos Involved!

On an uneventful weekend, this is a wonderful “experiment” to do with the kids. They’ll be fascinated by how fast both the celery and chives re-grow on their own! One blogger commented that she was amazed when her children would run out to the garden to “sneak” a celery stalk. Getting the kids involved not only sparks their imagination, but promotes healthy eating as well!

Looking to plant more vegetables and herbs this fall? Our Uncle Herb’s Favorites and Veggin’ Out seed kits have a variety of organic and heirloom seeds to get you started.

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Fall Herb Gardening

August 31st, 2012

Hasn’t the summer been flying? It feels like we blinked once in June, and here we are, discussing fall gardening tips. Fall is the perfect season to plan out your herb garden, perform small maintenance chores, and grow new herbs for the New Year.  While you’re looking forward to those crisp evenings, rosy cheeks, hot soups, and the smell of bonfires, keep these fall herb gardening tips in mind:

Have A Plan For Fall

Keeping a garden notebook can make the difference between a fine garden, and a great one. Take a few moments to make simple map of what you’d like to grow and where. Also, make notes of your past successes and failures, which herbs did not grow well, and a possible reason behind it. Jot down which herbs you used the most often, and which you used the least. This all will make your herb garden more successful this fall.

Annual Herb Fall Care

If you are searching for herbs with little commitment, annual herbs are a great choice. This includes basil, dill, parsley, rosemary and marjoram. Generally, annual herbs can stay in the ground if they continue to do well. If not, annual herbs are easy to clean out and replace in the fall.

If you have an herb garden already in place, take a look and decide which herbs need to be cut back. Thin any herbs that have grown past their boundaries. If you plan on seed saving and replanting, wait until your herbs have finished their growing cycle by flowering and making seeds.

Perennial Herb Fall Care

Perennial herbs may start to accumulate dead growth at this time. It’s your choice if you prefer to cut it back and dispose of it (or compost), or leave it for foraging birds or animals in the garden. If you decide to leave it, be aware that fall is the time when animals may be looking into your garden for a more reliable food source. Therefore, it’s important to harvest your herbs as they become available, and/or place adequate fencing around the herbs to protect them.

Consider drying or freezing herbs if you find they are growing in abundance. Plants that do not dry well are generally chives, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon. Try freezing these herbs, or adding them to salad dressings or marinades for more aromatic appeal.

Fall Planting

Many gardeners save planting for the springtime, yet herbs can and should be planted in the fall. Herbs thrive in the cooler air, as well as the softer soil, and tend thrive in these conditions. Planting in the fall also means they will be ready for harvest early the next year. Herbs that grow best in the fall include: basil, dill, cilantro, and parsley. You may want to add new soil or soil builder to ensure richness.

Preparing For Fall Frost

Cooler weather comes as early as September for some, and has the potential to bring unexpected frosts.  To prevent frost damage, the best method is to move plants in containers or pots inside before the first frost. However, if plants are rooted in the ground, use old blankets, sheets and burlap sacks and lightly drape them over your plants in the evening.  Ensure the covers are removed in the morning so that each plant receives plenty of necessary sunlight.  Stones, stakes or bricks can also be used to prevent covers from blowing off.  Also, avoid using heavy blankets or place wire around the plant to balance the weight and prevent crushing.

Have you purchased your Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed kit for fall? You’ll find 10 great herb choices of non-GMO and non-hybrid varieties.

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Beginners And Experienced Gardeners Love Growing Herbs!

March 25th, 2012

With gorgeous spring temperatures close to arriving, you may be toying with ideas on what to grow in your garden this year.  If you are new to gardening, growing fresh and flavorful herbs is a great way to begin the journey.  Many herbs found in Uncle Herb’s Favorites are perennial, meaning they last for three or more seasons (think of the “P” as “permanent”). Fresh herbs like chives, fennel, oregano and sage are all perennials found in this herb seed kit, and are easier to maintain without replacing them each season. Stop by and read our informative herb gardening guide for more tips on how to effectively grow your own herbs!

If this isn’t your first rodeo, perhaps you are looking to expand your selection of herbs in your garden.  A steady supply of herbs just a few feet away is naturally more ideal than running to the store for an expensive, commercially packaged herbs.  Uncle Herb’s Favorites has 10 varieties of herbs that can enhance salad dressings, salads, meat, tofu, and even desserts and drinks. You’ll also find that we offer the freshest seeds around! All of our food kits use Myler® bags to keep each seed at its best, and are then placed in a container that is FDA approved for long-term food storage.  You can trust that our kits are unlike the store bought version; they are water and rodent proof, and re-sealable so that seeds stay fresh between plantings.

Looking to dry your own herbs for long terms use? We found this informative article that will guide you through that endeavor. Spring is here, and it’s a great time to get growing!

Click on image below to view Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed varieties.

 

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How-to Dry Herbs for Cooking and Decorating

May 12th, 2011

 

With their intoxicating aromas and ability to transform dishes into palate pleasing wonders, herbs are simply sublime. Throughout history, herbs have been used in many ways and for many reasons. Ancient Greeks used parsley as a cure for stomach ailments; early Dutch settlers planted chives in meadows so that cows would produce chive-flavored milk; and early American settlers burned herbs for their fragrance, stored herbs with linens, and used herbs for illnesses. These are just a few ways that herbs have been used throughout history. In some way, shape or form, herbs have been used by different cultures around the globe.

If you have an abundance of herbs growing in your garden or if you would like to preserve some of your herbs to enjoy year-round, you should dry some of your harvest. It’s easy to do, and it is a great way for you to savor the herb gardening season and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Once dried, you can enjoy your herbs for cooking or decorating. Tie pretty ribbons around bunches of dried herbs then hang in increments from a string for a simple, sweet window swag; add dried herbs to glass bottles filled with olive oil, which you can use to decorate your kitchen counter with and for flavoring salad dressings and sauces; or make an aromatic sachet with dried flowers and herbs to tuck into travel bags or scent a drawer.

When cooking with dried herbs—if you’re substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs—one teaspoon of dried, crumbled herbs is the equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh herbs. Before storing dried herbs in air tight containers, look for any dried herbs that may show signs of mold and toss those out. To retain flavor, store leaves whole then crumble them when you’re ready to use them. Dried herbs will last for about one year and should be kept out of the sunlight.

There are several ways that you can dry fresh herbs, but we’re going to keep it simple and provide you with the steps for air drying low moisture herbs, such as bay, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Air drying is the easiest process and least expensive:

1. Cut healthy herb branches mid-morning from plant. Cutting herb branches mid-morning allows for any morning dew to dry from the leaves. If you cut too late in the afternoon your herbs may be wilting from the heat of the afternoon sun, and you don’t want that. Note: The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower—this is when they contain the most oil, which is what gives them their aroma and flavor.

2. Check the leaves, and pull off any diseased or dry leaves and make sure there are no insects on leaves.

3. Pull off lower leaves from herb branches, approximately one inch from bottom so that you have space to tie them together.

4. If the leaves are dirty, you can rinse herbs with cool water, but make sure to gently pat them dry with a paper towel as wet herbs will mold and rot.

5. Combine 5-6 herb branches together then tie with string.

6. If you want, label a paper bag with the name of the herb(s) you will be drying inside. Make several holes in the bag then place the herb bundle, leaves down, into the bag so that the stems are at the opening of the bag. Gather the open end of the bag around the stems and tie closed with a long piece of string. Hang the bag in a well ventilated, warm room (70 to 80 degrees F). You can dry herbs without placing them in a paper bag, but the paper bag helps keep dust off of the herbs while they’re drying.

7. Check herbs in approximately two weeks then periodically until dried. The drying process should take approximately 2 to 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

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