Complete Guide to Herbs and Gardens
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Herbs (pronounced /ˈɝb/ or /ˈhɝb/; see pronunciation differences) are seed-bearing plants without woody stems, which die down to the ground after flowering.
Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, or in some cases even spiritual usage. The green, leafy part of the plant is often used, but herbal medicine makes use of the roots, flowers, seeds, root bark, inner bark (cambium), berries and sometimes the pericarp or other portions.
General usage differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. A medicinal herb may be a shrub or other woody plant, whereas a culinary herb is a non-woody plant, typically using the leaves.
Spices: By contrast, spices are the seeds, berries, bark, root, fruit, or other parts of the plant, even leaves in some cases; although any of these, as well as any edible fruits or vegetables, may be considered “herbs” in medicinal or spiritual use.
Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that they are used in small amounts and provide flavor (similar to spices) rather than substance to food.
There are many different methods of canning, but most depend on heat and sterility. Nearly any kind of vegetable or fruit from your garden can be canned. You’ll need a pot large enough to hold jars of produce, sterile jars and rings. If you do decide to try canning produce, be sure to follow all directions carefully so that you don’t introduce bacteria into the food you’re trying to preserve.
Jams, Jellies, Preserves and Butters
Fruits (and some vegetables) have a natural substance called pectin. It combines with sugar and heat to thicken the fruit syrup when it’s cooked. Generally, the fruit is cooked with sugar and water, with or without spices or other flavorings added, then ladled or poured into jars while still hot for sterilization purposes. You can find recipes for making jams from all sorts of fruits and vegetables in a good cookbook or online. In general, preserves are made with whole fruit, jams crushed, and jellies are strained of all fruit pulp.
Pickles and relishes use salt, vinegar and/or spices to preserve vegetables and fruits in a brine of some sort. We’re most familiar with cucumber pickles, but corn, peppers, melon, onions and many other kinds of fruits or vegetables can be pickled as well!
Drying is best for herbs and legumes. To dry herbs, either spread leaves flat on drying screens, or tie them loosely in bunches and hang upside down in a dry, warm place with good air circulation. Dried beans are great soup starters in the winter. Just spread unshelled beans on drying screens out in the sun till the pods are fully dry. Shell and store beans in paper or plastic bags. If you’re brave, you can try sun-drying tomatoes.
A more common way of drying fruits and vegetables is with a dehydrator, which can be purchased from a kitchen store. Follow the directions with the dehydrator for best results.
One of the easiest methods of preserving your garden goods, if you have the freezer space. It’s best for small vegetables and berries or sliced fruits, but should be avoided for leafy vegetables.
Corn: Cut kernels off cobs and spread flat on cookie sheets. Freeze, then store in zippered plastic bags.
Peas: Shell, spread on cookie sheets in freezer. Store in zipped plastic bags.
Berries: Small berries like blueberries and raspberries can be frozen whole. Strawberries can be frozen whole or sliced. (For a special summer treat – freeze whole berries on cookie sheets, then eat straight from the freezer!)