Threats of frost won’t keep Brenda Howard from enjoying her annual herbs. A 21-year member of the Madison Herb Society, Howard says she harvests and preserves culinary herbs to flavor foods throughout the winter.
She says annual herbs, like basil and parsley, should be harvested throughout the growing season to promote continued growth. Up to 75 percent of the current season’s leaf growth can be harvested at one time. She says herbs are best harvested early in the day before the late afternoon heat evaporates plants’ oils.
One of Howard’s favorite ways to preserve basil is frozen pesto cubes. She mixes basil, parsley, garlic, pinenuts (or walnuts) and olive oil in a blender. She then scoops the pesto mix into an ice cube tray and freezes it. Once frozen, she says the individual cubes can be stored in plastic storage bags. She adds these cubes to season soups. The cubes can also be mixed with cream cheese or sour cream to create dips and spreads.
Drying is another popular method to preserve herbs. Simply tie together bundles of herb cuttings and hang them to air dry. Howard says microwaving herbs speeds the drying process. She microwaves her herbs, especially sage leaves, on a paper towel in one-minute segments until they are dried. The herbs can be stored in plastic containers.
For rosemary, Howard encourages gardeners to dig this tender perennial then gradually transition the potted plant indoors to grow through the winter. She says they prefer drier soil and a sunny window of a cooler room such as an unused bedroom.
To learn more, check out Columbus author Debra Knapke’s newest book, “Herb Gardening for the Midwest,” or attend the local herb society’s meetings on the third Monday of each month. Call 740-852-3956 for locations.
Teresa Woodard is a volunteer with the Madison County Master Gardeners. Questions and gardening news items are welcomed at 740-852-0809 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.