For gardeners and cooks, the winter holidays bring the chance to share the season’s harvest with friends and family. Whether you’re preparing vegetables from your own garden, a local farm, or the grocery store, fresh herbs are a wonderful complement. Their aroma and depth of flavor is hard to match, and their bright green color is welcome on the wintertime table. Our friends at Harris Seeds shared this information in a 2012 newsletter and we thought you may enjoy it as well!
From Windowsill to WOW! Holiday cooking with fresh herbs
By raising your own herbs in containers, you can enjoy cooking with them throughout the winter. In fact, it’s easy to grow, harvest, and cook with fresh herbs if you follow some simple guidelines.
Keep your indoor herbs happy
Provide your indoor herb plants with the basics – light, fertile soil, water, and air, and they’ll provide you with plenty of flavorful leaves!
- Light – Place plants in a sunny window. If your window doesn’t receive 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, supplement with a grow light, or place plants in a light stand.
- Fertile soil – Use a good-quality organic potting mix. Feed plants regularly with Worm Power Shower or another organic fertilizer.
- Water – Use moderately-sized pots with drainage holes in the bottom, and place pots in a pan or dish. Since leaves are less likely to become diseased if they stay dry, water plants from the bottom rather than the top. Choose a container that gives enough room for root development but isn’t so large that it holds excess moisture around the roots.
- Air – Provide good air circulation around your plants, and make sure your potting mix is light enough so that it drains well. Excess soil moisture can promote root decay.
Harvest for months of flavor
Follow these guidelines to harvest savory herbs for the kitchen while maintaining healthy plants in the windowsill.
- Harvest a maximum of ¼ of the plant’s leaves at a time, to ensure the plant has enough leaves to continue growing.
- Use sharp scissors, as clean cuts prevent disease.
- Many herbs grow from nodes located where each leaf meet the stem. When you cut the stem right above a growth node, the plant branches from that node. Choose a node near the base of the plant so that you harvest more usable leaves. Use this guideline for herbs like rosemary, oregano, marjoram, savory, sage, basil, and thyme.
- For herbs like dill and fennel, cut leaves from the stem. New leaves will grow from the stem.
- For parsley and chives, cut mature stems 1-2″ above the soil. New stems will grow from the soil.
Cook with full flavor!
Fresh herbs offer irreplaceable flavor and aroma to vegetables, poultry, meats, spreads, and more. Follow these tips to get started…and then follow your imagination!
Substitute fresh herbs for dried herbs in your favorite recipes.
Replace dried herbs with 3 times the amount of fresh herbs. That is, replace 1 teaspoon of dried herbs with 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs. Herbed roasted vegetables are simple to prepare and simply delicious. Cut the vegetables of your choice into similar-sized pieces, and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh herbs. Roast at 425° for roughly 1 hour, until vegetables are golden brown and tender. Herbed butter adds a distinctive touch to holiday meals, and it’s simple to prepare. Just mix chopped herbs into softened butter, shape into balls with a melon scoop, and chill. You can also freeze herb butters for later use.
Wishing you the best of the winter holidays!
Guest Blogger Bio
Our guest blogger is Solveig Hanson, Harris Seeds Organic Product Manager. Before moving to the Rochester, NY area to work at Harris Seeds, she was co-owner of a sustainable vegetable farm in Iowa that served local CSA shareholders and foodservice customers. She’d love to hear about your favorite recipes using fresh herbs!