10 Tips for Drying and Storing Herbs

10 Tips for Drying and Storing Herbs

Garden season is off to a strong start! If you planted any herbs this year, you may already be seeing an abundance of the tasty things since they can grow with a vengeance.  Wondering what you can do with all the herbs you have without letting them go to waste? This post should definitely help you decide what to do with them!

Using herbs in your home is a wonderful way to incorporate not only the beauty they provide but the health benefits. You can use them for so many things. From making potpourri and sachets to making herbal remedies and of course cooking.

If you are new to using them and need a little help, here are 10 tips to help you dry and store herbs that will make it easier on you and help prevent you from ending up with non-usable product.

But first, here’s the two step process to get your herbs ready for drying:

Step 1: Gather your herbs. The best time to do this, is in the morning before the sun is shining on them. It’s also best to pick the herbs before the plants start to flower.

Step 2: Wash your herbs and pat them dry with a towel. Or, if your herbs look pretty clean, you can just shake them gently to get rid of any dust or dirt. At this point, you can also pick off any leaves that are yellowed, spotted, or discolored.

Now on to the tips:

1. Find a nice, dark place to dry them.

They will need good ventilation and air, but if they are exposed to too much light, it will dry them out too quickly and they can become too brittle and fall apart too fast on you. You can use a fan on a low setting or put them near the air conditioning vent for the ventilation, but just not in a window. Another suggestion for location is to place them in an attic type space if you have it. The top of the refrigerator works too, if you are limited on space and just drying a few. Or on the top of a water heater. Those closets make a good ventilated place most of the time.

2. If possible, use drying screens to lay them on.

The screens will catch the smaller, loose pieces if they lose any and they get good air flow from both sides this way, which is ideal. Using the screens for thicker herbs, like rosemary that are more woody in nature, is perfect.

3. Hang them upside down, in bunches

Hanging them upside down, in bunches is another alternative to the flat screens. Use a rubber band around the stems and keep the bunches fairly small. The thicker they are, the longer they will take to totally dry. The ones in the center can still be damp, even when the ones on the outside look fully dried. Thicker herbs, like lavender for example, can take a couple of weeks to totally dry.

4. Using an oven to dry them will speed the process.

Put them on a baking sheet type of tray and set the temperature as low as your oven will go. You will need to move them and turn them every so often to keep them drying evenly, so the best way is to set the timer for about 30-40 minutes and then flip them when it goes off. Repeat until you feel they are dry enough, which may take up to 6 hours, but could be done in 3.

5. Plant them early.

If you are growing your own herbs and are able, plant them so they can be harvested in the summer time. So, early spring. The flavor will be better than in winter, according to avid gardeners.

6. When storing them, avoid letting them get dusty.

One way to do this is to use a paper bag hanging over them, when they are in bunches, with the stems poking out of one end. Or if they are loose, use a thinner weight cardboard box, and punch holes in it. Cut flaps in the sides to help air flow and ventilation but folded in enough to cover and keep off the dust particles.

7. Use airtight containers.

For storing your herbs, you can use airtight containers, like glass jars with seals, similar to a mason jar or ones that have the locking lid and rubber seals. Make sure the containers are very clean and sterile. Any other chemical residue can contaminate the herbs and affect their scent and health benefits.

8. Freeze them.

You can also freeze herbs as an option for storage instead of glass jars. Use Ziploc bags that have a tight seal, and be sure to push out all the air before sealing them tight.

9. Storing for culinary use.

For herbs that are for cooking and culinary uses, crush the herbs well before storing. For herbs that will be used for teas, use the whole leaf and any blooms and do not crush them.

10. Create flavoured oils

You can keep herbs well when storing them in an oil base. If you place them in a glass jar that has a good seal, cover them totally in olive oil and keep them stored in a dark place. They will infuse the oil, flavoring it and giving it their benefits too.

I’m pretty certain that these tips will help you use up your abundance of herbs that you will see this year. I’d love to know how you use your herbs that you grow. Let me know in the comments!

 

How to Earn Money from your Garden

Odds are, when you started your garden you were not thinking about how you could earn money from it. Over time you may have seen a bit of potential and started to think about how you could make money from your garden. Even a small thriving garden can earn a bit of extra money. If you are skilled or have plenty of space you can earn even more.

Today, I’d love to outline some ways that you can Earn Money from your Garden.

Earn Money from your Garden

Sell extra produce

Often, the first issue that makes you think about how you could earn money from your garden is an overabundance of produce. You may be wondering just how you could ever use up that many tomatoes. Selling that extra produce is a great way to earn some cash and help save someone else some money. First, offering the produce for sale to friends and family will definitely help you reduce your overabundance. If you still have produce leftover, post a sign in front of your yard advertising produce for sale. You may have many neighbors stopping by!

Selling canned goods

Check your Province or city’s food laws to see if you can earn money from your garden by canning extra produce and selling the jars. Selling homemade jams, jellies, and other canned goods just might be the answer for you. Due to law, your sales are often limited to a few thousand a year, but that’s perfect for using up the extra food from your garden. Homemade canned jams and jellies make great gifts around the holidays and can end up selling very well.

Sell plants

Are you a whiz at getting seeds to sprout into strong thriving seedlings? Do you have plants in your garden or pots that need to be thinned out? Selling plants to other gardeners in your neighborhood is a great way to earn extra money from your garden. If you do not have plants to sell how about seeds? Cuttings from that prize plant your neighbors all love?

Teaching others gardening skills

Have you been gardening for years and have a beautiful thriving garden that neighbors admire? Why not offer to teach gardening classes in your home garden or even at the local library for a small fee? Depending on local interest, you can earn a good bit of money running classes on the topics of caring for plants, propagating cuttings, and keeping plants alive for the not so green thumbs. Often a bit of education is all that stands in the way of a thriving garden. Many parents are looking for summer activities for their children and learning to garden could be a great use of time and energy.

The important part of making money with your garden is to not allow the focus on earning to take the joy out of your garden. If you lose the joy that made your garden thrive in the first place, your garden will suffer. So start out small, have fun, and make the most of the opportunities that come your way.

Have you tried making some extra money from your garden? How did you do it?

10 Things You Should Grow in Your Garden This Year

As spring rolls in, the garden can go in with it! This year, start your garden off right by planning for success. Some plants are a must for a productive garden that you will love as you feed your family from your own hard work.

10 Things You Should Grow in Your Garden This Year

Here are 10 things you should grow in your garden this year:

Lemon Grass.

Lemon Grass should be at the top of your list for your garden this year. This ornamental plant can be grown nearly anywhere in a pot. It keeps bugs away, bringing you peace from those pesky things. It can also be used to season and add flavor to foods. This Fresh Lemongrass Tea looks so refreshing!

Tomatoes.

This versatile plant can be used for so many dishes and even as a snack. (Sprinkled with salt and pepper…yum!) Tomatoes are packed with vitamins and are easy to grow. I especially like growing cherry tomatoes in containers.

Bell peppers.

With more vitamin C than an orange and plenty of flavor, bell peppers are a great addition to your garden and freeze well for later.

Bush beans.

Bush beans can be grown under plants that grow tall. Beans put nitrogen into the soil making them perfect companion plants to Carrots, Beets, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Kale, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Strawberries and Swiss Chard.

Pumpkin.

Pumpkins make a great ground covering plant that can shade the roots and stems or taller plants helping them thrive in the summer heat while providing you with great food in the fall harvest.

Basil.

This herb repels bugs and other pests helping to protect your garden while providing you with a tasty food for your table. Basil also makes a great edible edging plant for flower beds, helping maximize space. This Cold Pesto Pasta Salad is a great way to put basil to use.

Strawberries.

You will find in most areas the selection of fruit you can grow is limited. Strawberries are a great fruit that will grow nearly anywhere making it the perfect addition to your garden. They keep coming back better year after year and make a great potted plant.

Spinach.

If you’re looking for a green filler plant for your garden, spinach is just the plant for you. Spinach is high in vitamins and minerals, grows well in shaded areas with just a few hours of sun per day, and has nearly limitless ways to use in the kitchen.

Oregano.

Oregano is a classically Italian herb packed with medicinal qualities as well as a potent flavoring for your favorite dishes from pasta to pizza. This plant also makes a good filler plant that provides great food for your family.

Radishes.

When it comes to quick growing veggies that can help feed your family in less time, radishes are a great way to go.

Looking for more recipes to help you use all the yummy produce you’ll grow? Grab the Ultimate Homemaking bundle for tons of excellent recipe ebooks!

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7 Creative Uses for Chocolate Mint

Chocolate mint is an easy to grow perennial that once you plant it, you will find yourself with an abundance of it. It smells just like the name suggests, like minty chocolate, and smells good enough to eat! If you grow chocolate mint or are considering it, take a look at these 7 creative uses for chocolate mint that you must try! You will find that it’s a really practical and delicious herb to grow. Here is what you need to know:

Chocolate mint smells just like the name suggests, like minty chocolate! If you grow chocolate mint or are considering it, take a look at these creative uses for chocolate mint you must try!

1. Use it as a dessert garnish.

Chocolate mint is safe for food use as long as it has been grown without chemicals and is washed well. You can use it to top your cakes, cookies, and cupcakes as it offers some nice color and even adds to the aroma of the dessert.

2. Add it to shakes and ice cream.

Chocolate mint is a wonderful addition to your homemade shakes and ice cream. The oils in the plant can add a minty flavor and chocolate aroma that is heavenly. Be sure you only use mint that has been grown without chemicals and is rinsed well.

3. Freeze it in ice cubes.

Fancy up your beverages and add flavor at the same time when you freeze chocolate mint leaves in ice cubes. They will give the cubes some color and add flavor as they melt. This is an excellent idea to try when you’re throwing a garden party or shower. You can also add it to homemade popsicles as well.

4. Add it to your cocktails.

Chocolate mint is perfect for adding to your cocktails that require muddled mint. Mojitos taste even better when you add some fresh mint, and chocolate mint will get the job done and add a unique twist to the drink as well. Also, you can garnish any drink with a fresh chocolate mint sprig!

5. Make mint infused oil.

You can let chocolate mint leaves and stems soak in a bottle of almond or coconut oil to make your own mint infused oil. You can then use it as a massage oil (mint will cause slight tingles and warmness, be advised) or even add it to dessert recipes or a type of fruit salad.

6. Mix it in with your homemade bath products.

You can add chocolate mint to any of your homemade body scrubs, body butters, or other homemade bath products. Just muddle the mint or dry it and add it. You will not only get the benefits of mint but it will leave a wonderful scent too.

7. Dry it for crafting.

You can use dried mint leaves in your crafting as well. Try adding it to homemade candles, lotions, potpourri and more. It will add a lovely fragrance and some fresh color as well. To dry your mint just tie it into a bundle and hang it in a cool dark place until it’s dry.

Are you ready to put chocolate mint to work for you? Give these 7 ideas a try and see how useful it really is!

10 Uses for Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a perennial herb that grows thick, bushy and abundantly.  It smells great, is super tasty, and has a variety of fun uses.  If you’re wanting to create an herb garden, lemon balm should definitely be included on your plant list.  Because it grows so abundantly, you might be searching for ideas on how to put it to use. Here are 10 uses for lemon balm that you’re sure to enjoy:

10 creative uses for lemon balm

To Repel Mosquitoes

Lemon Balm is a great herb to have in your outdoor living spaces because it’s known for repelling those pesky mosquitoes! I currently have Lemon Balm in a planter with some colorful annuals next to our patio table. You could also try rubbing a few leaves over your arms and legs so the lemon scent is on your skin, warding off the mosquitoes.

Simple Syrup

Each summer I like to make up a batch of simple syrup so I can enjoy some delicious summery drinks. Sometimes I like to add some lemon balm leaves for an extra special treat. All you need is

  • 1 cup of packed lemon balm leaves
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil for 1 minute, until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and cover.
  3. Let stand 30 minutes.
  4. Strain the leaves from the syrup.
  5. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

I like to use the mixture in lemonade and iced tea or in club soda to make Italian sodas.

To make Tea

Dried or fresh lemon balm leaves are great for making a calming tea. Lemon balm is also known for fighting colds and flu so drinking a cup of lemon balm tea is sure to make you feel good!

Infused Honey

To make lemon balm infused honey, pack a jar half full of lemon balm leaves then fill it up with honey. Let the mixture sit for a month or so before straining. This infused honey is perfect for using in tea, desserts, and more.

For Cold Sores

Lemon balm can be an effective way to treat cold sores. You could create a lip balm by infusing a carrier oil (almond oil, jojoba oil…etc.) with some lemon balm, then combine with some beeswax to get lip balm consistency.

In desserts or fruit salads

Add a few tablespoons of chopped lemon balm leaves to fruit salads to impart some lemony flavor without making it too sour.  You could also try mixing some chopped leaves with yogurt to use as topping for fruit salads or for creating parfaits. It’s even yummy in fruit crisps and pies.

Make a Sleepy Time Syrup

Put about 3/4 cup lemon balm leaves into a small pot and add just enough water to cover the leaves. Simmer, covered partially, until the liquid is reduced in half. Strain out the leaves. While still quite warm, measure out about 1/2 cup of the concentrated tea and stir 1/4 cup of honey into it. You can add more honey to taste, if you’s like. Store in the refrigerator for about a week. Dose by the spoonful at night to help calm and relax everyone from children to adults. (Keep in mind that honey should not be given to infants under one year old.)

Use in bath water

How about a nice lemony scented bath? You’ll feel relaxed and refreshed! You could either sprinkle some leaves right in the tub or you could put some in a cloth bag and hang it from the tap. (and let the water run through it while you fill it up.)

Use in iced tea

Another drink I like to make in the summer is Sun Tea. Along with the tea bags, sometimes I like to add some lemon balm or even mint for that matter.

Use to make infused water

It’s crucial to drink a lot of water, but let’s face it, plain water can be boring! Jazz it up by placing some lemon balm leaves and some fruit to your water to make it more exciting to drink.

For those of you that grow lemon balm, what are your favorite ways to use it?

7 Frugal Ways to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

7 Frugal Ways to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Frugal Ways to Attract Butterflies- Take a look at these 7 frugal ways to attract butterflies to your garden so you can enjoy them and the benefits they bring all season long.
Attracting butterflies to your garden is not only ideal because of their beauty, but because they can help pollinate your flowers and plants as well! Butterflies are an excellent asset to your garden, which is why attracting them should be on your to do list. Attracting butterflies doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult; in fact, you can get them to come flocking for just pennies! Take a look below at 7 frugal ways to attract butterflies to your garden so you can enjoy them and the benefits they bring all season long.

1. Place out “sweet spots.”

Give butterflies sweet spots to feed on when you place out shallow lids with sugar water in them. The lids of Pringles cans or butter containers are perfect for this task. Then, watch the butterflies come and take a sip.

2. Try sponges.

Cut up sponges into cubes and soak them in sugar water. You can then place the sponges out in your garden and wait for butterflies to find then. They will love perching on the soft sponges and drinking the sweet water.

3. Give them watering stations.

You can do both of the suggestions above using plain water instead of sugar water so the butterflies have a place to get a cold drink. They get thirsty just like we do, and will flock to spots where water is available for them.

4. Plant ground cover.

Plant some low laying plants and ground cover that butterflies can find shade in. They will appreciate a retreat from the sun and enjoy a shady place to lounge in.

5. Plant butterfly friendly blooms.

Butterflies love Rose of Sharon, Butterfly Bush, and many other flowering bush varieties. Add some of these plants to your flower beds and landscaping and the butterflies will return year after year.

6. Forget the pesticides.

If you use pesticides in your yard, they will scare and/or kill butterflies off. Instead, avoid using chemicals in your yard and by all means avoid pesticides. Try natural pesticide options instead such as lady bug releasing or a simple spray of Dawn dish soap and water.

7. Let them eat fruit.

Butterflies love fruit rinds and peels. Place these items in shallow dishes and place them out for butterflies so they always have a snack on hand!

See how simple it can be to bring beautiful butterflies flocking to your yard? Give these tips a try and in no time you will be enjoying beautiful butterflies in your garden, even on the tightest of budgets!

My Garden Plans for 2015

This year I’m trying something different for my garden. Normally I grow my veggies in containers, but this year I’m transforming my flower bed! I’m so excited!

I have an assortment of perennials in the flower bed, but I moved them all over to one side to make room for veggies.  Because it’s still not a big space for growing, I really only want to grow carrots (my daughter loves them raw!). I thought I’d try beets because I love them roasted on salads. Kale because we like to make kale chips.

garden diagram 2015

So the picture shows where I’ll be planting stuff. I might add peas in the back so they can climb the fence.

I will have some containers.  I’ll have my herbs (Basil, tarragon, chocolate mint and strawberry mint), tomatoes and lettuce in containers. They grow well that way.  I’m also trying out these Smart Pots for the tomatoes.  They seem really great!

herbs

My mom will have her big garden again this year so I’ll be sure to trade some weeding time for cucumbers, zucchini, blackberries, potatoes, onions and what ever else she grows. 🙂

What will your garden look like this year?