Autumn brings the last chance to restock the many jars and tins in the herbal pantry. Although we didn’t entertain this year, we also never ate out, so some of the jars emptied faster than usual. Out here in the country, we don’t have pizza delivery or UberEats (we don’t have Uber at all!) so if we want to eat, we cook! So this month, I did a record 4 jars of parsley and 3 of basil because we ran out so early this spring.
The usual herbs were dried, some just by hanging, some in the microwave or very low-temp oven (usually after something was baked just using residual heat) or in the dehydrator. I try to keep the herbs as “whole leaf” as possible. Chopping or grinding them opens up the oil sacs and allows all that flavor to escape, so keeping them whole until ready to use is best.
Herbs dried included parsley, cutting celery, sage, oregano, calendula flowers, marjoram, thyme and lemon thyme, hyssop, all the mints and the lemon and Mandarin Orange balms, winter savory, chamomile flowers, basil, lemon basil, clove basil, a few hot peppers, and lemon verbena. Normally, the herbs go in recycled jars and are stored a the kitchen cupboard where they are handy.
This year, since the quantity was increased some recycled coffee tins were put to use, and duplicate jars and tins were stored in a small cabinet in the entryway. As long as herbs are in a cool, dry, dark place they last a long time.
Earlier in the summer, elderflowers were also dried. Many of these herbs will be blended into teas for over the winter. I dried more than usual because with the virus sweeping the world, who knows if there were enough hands to pick those “tiny little tea leaves” for Tetley and all the other famous companies. I may be drinking more of my own blends than normal.
In addition to drying, sprigs of dill and snipped chives were frozen, along with flattened bags of basil processed with olive oil. Later, I can break off frozen bits into soups or pastas, or thaw the basil “paste” and mix it with cheese and nuts to make pesto.
Calendula petals are steeped in oil. Elderberries are made into cordials and syrups, as were some of the fresh elderflowers. Tansy, feverfew, mugwort and peppermint were dried and mixed as a moth repellent to put in drawers and closets.
Autumn brings on lots of seed collection: dill, coriander, parsley, fennel, nigella, and sunflower are dried, and nasturtium seeds picked while fresh are pickled as a caper substitute. When freeze threatens, the potted rosemary bush will be pruned a bit before it comes indoors, and all the prunings will be dried, leaves removed and jarred. The bay tree goes indoors in front of the French doors, where fresh leaves can be harvested as needed. The allium rack in the garage is loaded with braids of shallots, onions and garlics and topped with curing winter squash, and the garage pantry is loaded with pickles, chutney, relishes, sauces, jams and jellies.
It’s nearly mid-November, but there are still rows of parsley, large patches of dill, cilantro, lemon balm, Mandarin orange balm, thyme, and various mints to use fresh so there’s no need to open the jars or tins yet. But, we know the day will soon come when the herbal pantry will be needed. Forecasts predict a snowier, harder winter than the past couple have been, but we’re well-stocked and ready!