Herbs from my garden (left to right): chives, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, dill, Italian parsley, sage.
Herbs not only make our food taste better and add color and interest to our dishes but it has been claimed for centuries that they have various medicinal properties. Herbs have long been made into teas and ointments in Folk remedies. The knowledge of medicinal uses for common herbs was often passed down orally through generations with a variety of claimed benefits, including improved sleep, improved digestion, or a strengthened immune system. Most summer herbs are easy to store for winter. Some keep better by freezing while others by being dried. Here is a palette of the most common herbs with suggestions on how to preserve them for our winter and how to incorporate them in our winter dishes or teas. The herbs pictured here are the most commonly used herbs in Western cooking.
Herbs can be collected for winter storage from early summer to late fall. They should be collected during the coldest part of the day, early morning when the weather is still cold, but during a sunny day. It is said that in this state, the plant is the freshest and has conserved the most energy. Herb gardens are a long tradition. With winter on the way, you can extend your fragrant herbs for cooking as well as herbal teas. If you did not get a chance to start an herbal garden yet, there is always next spring.
Chives are part of the onion family. They are best preserved dried. Store them in a jar in a dark place. They taste great in omelets or on scrambled eggs or creamy French sauces. They contain small amounts of vitamin C and minerals.
Parsley is the staple herb of every kitchen. There are two kinds commonly used: flat parsley or Italian parsley. Itkeeps the best frozen. I freeze mine in a glass jar. It can be added frozen to dishes at the end of cooking. It can also be added as a garnish on top of cooked potatoes or mashed potatoes or in soups. It is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine in dishes such as tabbouleh, a salad using bulgur. It contains vitamin C and Iron.
Basil has to be harvested super fresh. When planted in early spring, it should be protected from the afternoon sun; otherwise, it can “burn.” The blossoms should be picked off as soon as they appear; otherwise, it will make the rest of the plant turn bitter tasting. Basil is grown for its fresh and very fragrant leaves. Basil can be planted again in late summer for early fall harvest. To preserve basil for winter, you most often make it into pesto and freeze it. You can find my recipe for pesto here. Pesto is great for incorporating into pastas and for garnishing toast and pizzas. It also tastes delicious in this Caprese salad.
Dill belongs to the celery family. It tastes best fresh and has unique anise or licorice-like flavor. It does not preserve well dried; however, it keeps well frozen, where it retains its flavor better. Dill works well in potatoes and cucumber salads and famous dill sauces. It is used for salmon curing or in Russian borscht. It is a very fragile plant and bruises easily. If it goes to seed or “to bolt” in the late summer, it will reseed itself next spring. Mature dill seeds can also be collected and reseeded in a new location. Dill seeds taste like milder carraway seeds, but they have different culinary uses. Dill is packed with flavonoids and improves digestion and LDL cholesterol.
Sage is most commonly known for its usage in Thanksgiving stuffing. It pairs well with poultry and vegetables. It goes well with delicate pasta dishes and tastes great with potato gnocchi and butter sauce. It also works very well with bean dishes. Sage contains vitamins B6 and K and iron. Sage is said to improve digestion and mood. It contains several antioxidants.
Rosemary is very popular and commonly used in American cuisine. It is very fragrant fresh or dried. It stores very well dried in a jar away from direct light. It can be used in soups or poultry, but it works especially well with fatty meats, such as lamb or pork. It can also be put in omelets or mushroom dishes. Rosemary is a very old folk remedy. Its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are said to improve the immune system and circulation in the body. It is available in oil form and is used in homeopathic medicine.
Thyme is a spice as well as very old and popular folk medicine. In the kitchen, it is used as a culinary herb, mostly in savory dishes, mainly in France and Italy. It works best in soups, with mild meats, and especially on fish. It can be incorporated into marinades, butter, and savory baking. Thyme blooms until very late fall and should be harvested during dry and sunny weather once it has bloomed when the herb is the most potent. It used to be saved in little cotton sacks, but paper bags work as well. Thyme’s great smell makes it a popular ingredient in small sachets (sometimes in combination with lavender) placed around pillows for use as a sleep aid. In the past, it has been made into syrups as a remedy to help fight cough and bronchitis. It is known to have powerful antibacterial properties. It can be brewed into a medicinal tea by itself or by mixing with other herbs. There are several varieties of thyme.
Oregano comes in several varieties. It is the most frequently used herb as a pizza topping in Italy. It works great with olive oil-based dishes, vinaigrettes, and marinades for lamb and poultry. It dries easily for winter usage and can be made into a tea to help ease a cough. It is a highly regarded medicinal herb, and oregano as oil is also used frequently in homeopathic medicine.
Peppermint is a very popular, easy-to-grow herb that is most frequently enjoyed as a tea in the summertime. It can be served hot or cold. There are several varieties with many flavors, all of them menthol-like. The most popular is spearmint, chocolate mint, or pineapple mint. Try my easy peppermint tea here. It can be utilized in chocolate or for ice cream making but is especially known in mint sauces served with lamb. Peppermint has calming properties, and peppermint oil is used as a remedy for indigestion.
Information contained here is not intended to treat or cure any diseases or provide medical advice.
Herbs in My Kitchen by Ann Powers
Electronic Format: Hoopla E Book
Favorite Recipes with Herbs by Dawn Ranck Hower and Phyllis Good
Electronic Format: Hoopla E Book
The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs by Padma Lakshmi
Formats: Book and Hoopla E Book
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