Bolting herbs? Dry ‘em or freeze ‘em!

I don’t know about you, but a number of our herbs are bolting out back. What to do with them? Well, depending on the herb, I would suggest either drying or freezing them. That way you can enjoy your garden herbs long after growing season is past.

Taking a little time to dry and/or freeze your herbs means having garden goodness long after growing season is over.

Taking a little time to dry and/or freeze your herbs means having garden goodness long after growing season is over.

Basil, dill, oregano, mint, rosemary and thyme dry well. To dry basil, oregano and mint, remove the leaves from the stalk, rinse in a salad spinner and then spread out on a drying tray or kitchen towel in a warm, dry place. Let them dry for about a week, or until the leaves have gone crispy. Transfer to jars or freezer bags. Make sure you label because dried up leaves can all start to look the same…

Bolting Thai and Italian basil.

Bolting Thai and Italian basil.

Drying basil leaves.

Drying basil leaves.

To dry dill, rosemary and thyme, cut the roots off the stalks and hang plants upside down in small bunches in a warm, dry place. Once dried you can carefully remove the small leaves and put into jars, or if you’re lazy you can just put the whole thing – stalk and all – into a freezer bag and crumble off the leaves as you need for cooking. This tends to be my approach, as you can see from the above photo.

Parley freezes well in a sealed freezer bag. If you want to wash it first, remove as much excess water as possible before freezing. I also freeze hot peppers, since we don’t use them up fast enough while they are fresh. In the case of both parsley and peppers, you can just trim off what you need for cooking on an as-needed basis.

I don’t particularly like dried or frozen cilantro. In the case of cilantro, we prefer to let it go to seed and harvest the coriander seeds instead for cooking. However, some people totally do dry it.

Helpful herb fact: Thyme and oregano are perennial! Don’t pull up the plant by the roots when you’re harvesting for drying… they’ll come back next spring!

In-Season Recipe (mid-August): Beans on the Barbie

This is one of the easiest and most practical ways to cook your garden wax beans, not to mention one of the most delicious.  As with my BBQed kale chips, when it’s too hot to turn on the oven I like to cook my beans on the barbie. This recipe works well with pretty much any bean you can grow. If you’ve got multiple varieties of beans, toss ‘em all in together. We’ve also been getting a lot of wicked veggies from “Grandpa” Frank, including a ton of yellow wax beans (included in photo below.)

Colourful bean mix, dill and coconut oil. Simple is best.

Colourful bean mix, dill and coconut oil. Simple is best.

We eat primarily vegetarian, so beans are an excellent home-grown source of protein for us. Here are the wax bean varieties we are growing this year and the source of the seeds:

- Kentucky Wonder yellow pole bean (Ferme Tourne-Sol)

- Rattlesnake green/purple pole bean (2012 seed harvest but originally from Ferme Tourne-Sol)

- Green bush bean (Seeds picked up while traveling in Bangladesh and planted for the first time in 2012 which have done very well in our backyard.)

- Purple pole bean (Seedlings traded from a friend earlier this year… excellent addition to our bean mix!)

We love our cast iron skillets (the original non-stick pan…) They can totally be used on the barbeque and are WAY more convenient than wrapping up your veggies in tin foil. (We do our roasted root veg this way too.) Not to mention that cooking with teflon and aluminum are not safe for you! Seriously… do some reading about it, and then go invest in a cast iron pan (or 2) if you don’t already have one. But I digress…

Here’s the recipe:

Preheat barbeque to medium heat. (If you’re cooking a number of different items on the barbeque, budget about 20 minutes for the beans.)

In a cast iron skillet, combine:

  • Mix of rinsed garden beans
  • Generous handful of fresh or dried garden dill
  • Generous tablespoon of coconut oil
  • A few cloves of coarsely chopped garlic
  • Pinch of sea salt

Cover the skillet with a cast iron of stainless steel lid (or foil if necessary) and put on the barbeque.

Toss beans every few minutes for even cooking. Beans are ready when they are soft and some are nicely browned.

Beany tips:

- The more you pick, the more they produce! Keep picking your beans regularly to keep them producing longer!

- If you have an over-abundance of beans, you can freeze them.

Indoor planting… party?!

As if there is ever need of an excuse to eat fresh croissants with friends on a Sunday, but if you’re looking for one then an indoor seed-planting party is definitely a good one! The gist of the planting party is that everyone brings a little something to either plant or eat or both. Seeds are shared and planted in pots and flats, and everyone goes home with full bellies and an assortment of planted seeds to germinate indoors.

Jaune Flamme seedlings

Jaune Flamme seedlings

Due to Ottawa’s short(ish) growing season, if you’re planning on starting everything from seed, there are certain veggies that should be started up to eight weeks before the last frost date, which is May 6th, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. We held our planting party March 10th*.

Here is a list of the seeds we planted indoors and the source for each:

  • Jaune Flamee tomato (heirloom, Ferme Tourne Sol)
  • Black Cherry tomato (heirloom, Ferme Tourne Sol)
  • Montreal Tasty tomato (heirloom, Ferme Tourne Sol)
  • Mixed bell pepper (seeds harvested from 2011 planting)
  • Beaver Dam Hot Pepper (The Cottage Gardener)
  • Hungarian hot pepper (The Cottage Gardener)
  • Evergreen bunching onion (Urban Harvest)
  • Rosa Bianca Eggplant (Urban Harvest)
  • Dill (Greta’s Organic Gardens)
  • Cilantro (seeds harvested from 2012 planting)
  • Basil (seeds harvested from 2012 planting)
  • Sunflowers (Seeds of Creation)
  • Watermelon (seed trading table at Seedy Saturday)
  • Cantaloupe (from Ben’s dad)
Pepper seedlings

Mixed “Mystery” bell pepper seedlings

Here is a list of some things that are important to prep before you host your own planting party:

  1. Have all of your seeds in order and sort out those that should be planted indoors. All seed packets will come with planting  instructions will say whether a crop should be started indoors.
  2. Determine approximately how many plants you would like of each crop… I tend to err on the high side because it’s fun to give away seedlings to neighbours, friends and colleagues. (It is amazing the goodies you can trade for you home-sprouted seedlings!) Once you know how many you want, you can figure out home many pots/planting flats you need, and how much potting soil you will need.
  3. Make sure all of your pots and/or planting flats are the type that allow drainage. Some of the flats come with a clear plastic lid which provides an excellent greenhouse effect for little seedlings.
  4. Have some trowels and a small watering can or spray bottle on hand. Ask friends to bring their own trowel and any small tools they think they’ll need.
  5. Labeling is key, especially when you have many people planting several different types of seeds. Have masking tape and a few sharpies on hand and make sure people are labeling as they go… last year we somehow ended up with something like 2-dozen eggplant plants and no pepper. Whoops!
  6. Pick your house’s sunniest spot and clear out an area for the flats to live for the next 6-8 weeks.
  7. Good music, good friends and good food also help make a highly successful indoor planting event. Duh.

Once seeds are planted they need to be kept warm, moist and sunny. Take good care of these little babies! In the week leading up to the planned date of outdoor transplanting, the indoor seedlings should be left outside for several hours a day to “harden” them. Read more about seedling hardening here.

Afterthought: We had good germination on most of the above listed crops, with the exception of the onions… I think this will be the last year we bother trying to start those by seed indoors.