kitchen-herbs

How to Dry Herbs for Optimal Quality

If you grow your own herbs, you’ll want to learn how to dry them to preserve their freshness and enjoy them through the winter months. If you follow the techniques described here, your dry herbs will last for months to come.

By Tammi Hartung 

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Growing a Kitchen Garden in a Light Fixture

A landscape designer and a product designer combined creative forces to bring the garden into the kitchen. A collaboration that resulted in Klorofyll, a suspended light fixture that doubles as a hanging kitchen garden for growing aromatic herbs.

Both functional and decorative, Klorofyll is part of the trend for growing one’s own, even if it’s just a few herbs, and also reflects consumer interest in personalization–users can decide how to use the product in a way that fits their tastes.

Klorofyll’s 360° rotating cylinder contains six openings for removable planters, and two LED light rings which provide illumination, its electric wiring contained within the suspension cable and other technical parts inside one end of the module.

As a pendant light, it provides functional lighting for the kitchen work space and at the same time enables cooks to snip culinary herbs from directly overhead. A gentle spin rotates the cylinder on its axis to reveal a different herb pot. If ambient light is inadequate for healthy plant growth, Klorofyll replicates photosynthesis with the LED lights within its built-in light elements. Pretty cool…now I want one.

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How to Grow an Herb Garden Indoors Year Round

1) Provide adequate light. The goal is a vegetative light cycle (18 hours of light at least), with eight or more hours of direct sun or bright artificial light. If you need lots of an herb, you will need to take care of the herb’s lighting needs. For example, basil and coriander (cilantro) need just a bit more light than other herbs, and really prefer 8 hours or more of direct light each day. In addition to this, if you want fresh pesto, just a pinch here and there is not going to cut it. Here’s what you can do about it:

  • Whenever the light levels are low, give them a boost. Two or three fluorescent lights above your plants will greatly increase growth and yield. You can grow enough basil for a few servings of pesto now and then and still have enough always at your fingertips.
  • With a small metal halide light, you would have a larger area with better lighting. You could produce an abundance of any herbs you choose for your culinary and aromatic delights. Basil would take well to the bright conditions under a metal halide, as it is a Mediterranean, sun-loving herb.

2) Select the proper soil. Some herbs grow better in poor soil, as they can develop a stronger flavour. The oils in herbs make them special. Very fast growing herbs often grow plain leaves and stems more quickly than they can produce tasty essential oils. Often you will hear, “Basil grows better in poor soil,” or, “Your basil will taste better if you don’t fertilize”. What is really meant here is, “Don’t grow your basil too fast.” (Basil is an example to which this applies). 

3) Correctly set up your containers. When growing in a container it is a little different. The plant still needs some food to grow, and when that food runs out you will need to fertilize. However, as you will see next, this is all taken into consideration together with the growth habits of your herbs:

  • To keep initial growth rates in control, use a soil mix with just enough nutrients. Mix 2 parts coir (coconut fibre) compost to 1 part perlite, and then add 20 percent worm castings. Test the pH of any mix, and if it is acidic, add one gram of hydrated lime for every litre of soil mix. Or, you can substitute with vermiculite, which does not need pH adjusting. Finally, add 1 tablespoon of kelp meal for each gallon of soil to add plant hormones and to give beneficial micro-organisms something to feed on. Use this mix whenever you transplant.

4) Know when to water. If the surface of the soil feels dry, you need to water. Another way to tell is to pick up the container and check how heavy it is. Your herbs like their soil to drain fast. You need to have containers with holes in the bottoms, and you need to add a layer of broken roof tiles (slate is ideal) or other small flat stones, or a centimetrer or so of perlite or gravel to the bottom of each container as you transplant. It is best to water thoroughly but less often. Water the container until some water comes out of the bottom, but don’t over-water. 

5) Start feeding your plants after 10 or so days. When the herbs have been in any container for ten days or more, you need to begin feeding them. In a container, the roots are stuck in a small space and will quickly mine it free of any nutrients, especially if you have been going easy on the nutrients to begin with. Feed with half-strength nutrient such as Maxsea 16-16-16 every two weeks. 

6) Give an additional boost to your herbs. If you really want to keep your plants healthy, it is recommended to use 10 ml/gallon B1 plant mix and liquid seaweed in every drop of water you give to your plants. The B1 consists of vitamins and root hormones, and the seaweed is trace nutrients and plant growth hormones. This will help with essential oil production. Finally, water basil from around the base; it does not like water on its leaves. 

7) Use your herbs when they’re ready. As soon as the herbs have grown enough leaves to be pinched without affecting their growth, you can begin using some of the herbs. This usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the herbs. Herbs like basil are best when harvested before flowers open. You will get your highest essential oil levels when you harvest at the end of the dark period, assuming you do not leave the lights on 24 hours a day. 

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BLACK PEPPER

Black pepper, like sea salt, is one of the oldest spices on Earth, and has extensive mythology behind it. It was given to Roman soldiers as payment and to help protect them in battle, the ancient Japanese believed it to be one of the strongest aphrodisiacs, and many Voodoo practitioners believe peppers will only grow hot if you’re angry when you plant them. Black pepper, in most ancient cultures, related to war, victory, battle, and their corresponding gods and goddesses.

Magical properties: black pepper, like salt, helps to enhance spells when mixed with other herbs, especially curses and dark magic. On its own, pepper is useful for warding off negative and dark energies.

Medicinal uses: like most other peppers, black pepper can be used to help clear the sinuses of mucous, and help nasal inflammation.

Black pepper spell: if someone at school, work, or home is gossiping about you and spreading untrue rumors, make a simple potion of about 1 cup natural water (rain, river, lake, etc), 1tbsp of whole black peppercorns, 1tbsp crushed red peppers, 1tbsp sea salt, and about a teaspoon of charcoal. After mixing well, place something personal of theirs in the container (a picture, hair, their name written in black ink on solid white paper, etc). Leave outside for three days and three nights, then dispose properly. This is a curse, please use responsibly.

Medicinal use: while you have a stuffy, runny, or clogged nose, eat extra black pepper, or drink it in water.

WARNING: Please do not use herbs or magic in place of proper medical care.

a handful of lavender tips for your kitchen and garden

The potency of the lavender flowers increases with drying.

Flowers and leaves can be used fresh, and both buds and stems can be used dried.

Lavender is a member of the mint family and is close to rosemary, sage, and thyme. It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory.

In cooking, use 1/3 the quantity of dried lavender flowers to fresh lavender flowers.

Adding too much lavender to your recipe can be like eating perfume and will make your dish bitter. Because of the strong flavor of lavender,  the secret is that a little goes a long way.

Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

The spikes and leaves of lavender can be used in most dishes in place of rosemary in most recipes.

Use the spikes or stems for making fruit or shrimp kabobs. Just place your favorite fruit on the stems and grill.

To retain the flavor and fragrance of dried lavender, store them in glass or pottery containers with tight fitting lids so the oils will not escape from the flowers.

Due to its excellent healing and analgesic properties, lavender can provide instant relief from heat rash or red and sore skin. It can also prevent blistering. Make a lotion using 12 drops of lavender essential oil in 1 tablespoon of distilled water. Dab the area gently.

6 Natural Allergy Remedies

’Tis the season for sniffling, sneezing and itching. Breathe easier with these natural, medically proven allergy treatments.

By Lynn Keiley 

GARLIC

Like most plant life, garlic has a long folkloric history. Egyptian slaves were given garlic because the pharaohs thought it gave them physical strength, it was customary in ancient Greece for midwives to hang garlic in birth rooms to keep evil spirits from entering newborns, and we all know the ever popular anti-vampire myth.

Magical properties: garlic is known as being one of the strongest plants to ward off and protect from evil, negativity, and harm.

Medicinal uses: garlic has long been used for common colds, coughs, and sore throats.

Garlic spell: break open a clove of garlic and hold it in your left hand when confronting an abusive person. This may give you the strength to stand up for yourself and block negative energy from your abuser.

Medicinal use: in 8oz of warm water, mix 1tbsp of fresh and finely chopped garlic, 3tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1tsp fresh and finely chopped ginger, 2tbsp raw honey, and a pinch of sea salt. Drink throughout the day to help suppress a cold.

WARNING: Please do not use herbs or magic in place of proper medical care.

Easy Kitchen Garden, Step by Step

Grow a kitchen garden to enjoy safe, flavorful and nutritious homegrown food.

By Roger Doiron

Photo by JUDYWHITE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM

Over the next 50 years, the international community will face health, food security and environmental challenges more daunting than any civilization has ever faced. The United Nations estimates that food production would need to increase by 70 percent to feed the projected global population of 9 billion in 2050. Plus, we’ll need to grow our food in an unstable climate with a greatly depleted natural resource base. [Keep reading….]

I’m part of a cooking co-operative on campus and we grow herbs on our kitchen windowsill. The oregano (pictured), rosemary, parsley and sage are thriving. Unfortunately the chilly winter killed our basil, which was by far my favorite herb. My best friend and I have been trying to grow lavender, but it’s difficult to start from scratch.

Common horsetail

Sorry for being silent so long, guys!
I had a big commission and I barely left home, also neglecting my blogs and stuff. This also meant neglecting my garden, and would you believe it got all overgrown with horsetail?

Now, horsetail is a great medicinal herb, so if you find yourselves, like me, with your hands suddenly full of horsetail*, and want to know what to do with it, head over to my wordpress to find out.

*that came out wrong…