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Using Your Herb Harvest before the Frost
We have had a light frost twice already - so the basils and tomatoes have become history. However, there are still herbs that are going strong - salad burnet, tarragon, sage, thyme, oregano, calendula, and even the borage and lemon mint! I harvested all the holy basil before the first frost and it is hanging in the shed drying. Ditto for the white sage which grew to enormous proportions this year in the compost rich beds. I did not cut the white sage fully, and it has survived the light frosts. I hope to make smudge sticks with the harvest, along with some of the wormwood and rosemary. the rosemary and bay plants have yet to make it to the greenhouse. I am having work done - electric and water installed - so I am trying to minimize the amount of space taken up in the greenhouse. But the tender plants have gone in, and are adjusting nicely. It helps that we are having cloudy days, and finally some much needed rain.
So, the holy basils, summer savory, wormwood, white sage, lemon savory, and lemon mint are drying. The tarragon will be cut and frozen - it's so much better that way. Of course, some will make its way into vinegar, as that is one of my favorite uses for it. The dill will make excellent vinegar, too, so that needs to be done. Thyme, sage, mint, and oregano can be harvested for a while - they all stay until the ground is frozen. Some people pot up chives or other favorite herbs for indoor use, but I find that unless you are vigilant with watering, they do not do very welll inside. If you have a greenhouse, that makes a difference. Our homes are just too dry with our heating systems. A cold room with bright light will work, too.
One way to use up your herbs is to make herb butters. I have been making them all along this summer, and I will be demonstrating how to do this at the Richmond Agricultural Bazaar this coming Saturday, from 9-3 at the Veteran's Hall in Richmond, NH. Stop by if you are in the area!
It's very simple to make herb butters. I use unsalted butter always. Bascially, chop whatever herbs you want to use - about three tablespoons of fresh herbs to one stick (four ounces) of butter. Strong herbs such as rosemary and sage require less, maybe two tablespoons. Be sure your butter is softened so that you can mash the herbs into it. Place the butter in the bowl, add your herbs and mix well. A sturdy, short-handled wooden spoon or spatula works best. I have what is called a spaddle that is my favorite tool for this. When I worked at Old Sturbridge Village, we used to make this with the school children as one of the projects in the woodworking class.
After you have worked in the herbs, either place in a short, wide mouthed canning jar, or shape the butter into a log and roll in plastic wrap. Freeze if you will not be using this right away. It's a simple task to cut off the amount of butter you need. And don't forget to label your butter! They will all look the same. You can incorporate a sweetener such as honey or maple syrup with sweet herbs such as lemon balm or mint (for use on scones or muffins) or make butters with tarragon (for chicken), dill (for fish) or any combination that you like.
It's a little bit of summer tucked away in your freezer, so make some now to enjoy through the long winter ahead!