Herbs are used for many things. They are used for medicinal purposes for everything from acne to upset stomachs. Most all medicines that are on the market today started out as a derivative or extract from these magical plants. You need to be extremely cautious when using herbs for medicinal purposes, and we recommend that you do research prior to using them because of side effects and allergies, not to mention toxicity. Herbs are also used in aroma therapy.
Herbs are commonly used in cooking. You can use them dried, fresh, and even in infused oils. Most herbs are easily dried. To achieve maximum flavor, the herbs should be harvested in the morning when their essential oils are at their peak. After harvesting, wash and tie them at the base and hang them upside down in a relatively cool, dark place. To use them fresh, you still want to harvest them in the morning; rinse and put them in the refrigerator in either a plastic bag with a damp paper towel or place them in a jar with water. Infused oils can be used as salad dressings, meat marinades, bread dipping, and cooking, or even a nice gift.
Below you will find a recipe for two different ways to make infused oils as well as a recipe for bread dipping oil. Use caution when using infused oils as they can easily become rancid. Oils that have herbs left in will need to be refrigerated and used within 1 – 2 weeks. If the herbs are strained, they have a slightly longer shelf life, usually about a month. These can be stored in a cool, dark area unless it has garlic in it, then it must be refrigerated.
Italian Oil (with herbs)
- 6 leaves fresh basil
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
Place washed herbs in a 12 oz. bottle. Use funnel to pour oil into bottle. Cover tightly and refrigerate. You may want to use a bottle with a rubber stopper. Over a period of time a metal lid can corrode and alter the flavor.
Carolyn’s Favorite (herbs strained out)
Pick your favorite combination of herbs. In some savory blends you can even add peppercorns and bay leaves. You will want enough fresh herbs to fill about half of your jar or bottle. Make sure they have been washed and paper-towel dried thoroughly. You will want to bruise the herbs slightly so the flavors will start to release. Heat the oil over medium heat—do not boil—usually about 5 minutes will do. Pour heated oil over herbs and let set overnight. Strain out herbs and pour into your bottle or jar and seal.
Bread Dipping Oil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Simply mix and dip.
Growing your own herbs is easy and enjoyable. Whether you grow them in the ground or in containers, they will need 3 – 4 hours of direct sun. Morning sun is preferable. In containers you will need to use potting soil. (Organic potting soil is also available for the organic grower). In the ground, you will want a good blend of compost, native soil, and earthworm castings. Mix ½ compost to ½ native soil, then add worm castings at a rate of ½ cup per plant. Herbs will need to be fed regularly. In containers you can use a water soluble fertilizer, such as Grow More, weekly. In the ground, you can use Happy Frog organic fertilizer every 6 weeks. Organic fertilizers will last longer and will continue to build your soil. During the heat of summer, containers will require more watering, so make sure you check them daily.
HAVE FUN, BE CREATIVE, AND ENJOY!!!
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