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Using and Storing Culinary Herbs

Basil, lemon balm, pineapple mint, nasturtium, parsley, and lemon thyme can flavor your food in many ways during the growing season and for months to come

Sometimes your herbs look so great, you forget that they also have a ton of uses. To make sure you get the most out of them, use them fresh and store what’s left. In general, harvest herbs after the dew has evaporated on sunny days or when plants have dried after a rainy day. Rinse herbs before using them by washing them briefly and drying them thoroughly on paper towels. Follow this rule of thumb: Use half as much dried herbs as fresh herbs in a recipe. You can find recipes in  Living with Herbs  and Herbs in Bloom , both by Jo Ann Gardner.

“Genovese’ basil is great for salads and pesto. Cut up leaves over eggs, cheese, and pasta dishes. Use pesto for soups, pasta, and casseroles. Leaves and flowering stems make great fresh bouquets.Storage: Remove leaves from stems, cut up (cutting leaves speeds drying and preserves color and flavor), and spread out to dry on an ungreased cookie sheet. Place in a warm oven (no warmer than 150 degrees F) until crispyd ry. If you smell the herbs, the temperature is too high: the point is to dry them, not cook them. For microwaves, spread herbs between paper towels, and heat for two minutes or until crispy.
The fresh lemon flavor of lemon balm is perfect for flavoring hot teas and iced drinks. Use in lemon butter for fish or in herb jelly with a lemon-juice base.Storage: Hang long-stemmed bunches upside down away from light to air-dry.

Alone or mixed with lemon balm, variegated pineapple mint makes a good digestive tea. Use as an edible garnish on desserts or in herb jelly with an apple-juice base.Storage: Proceed as with basil.
Roll up different-colored ‘Alaska’ nasturtium flowers in a large basil leaf, and cut up with scissors to make an herbal confetti for salads, scrambled eggs, and fresh-tomato dishes. Stuff flowers with dabs of chicken, tuna, or egg salad.Storage: Do not dry. Preserve nasturtium flavor in an herb vinegar.

Parsley has a fine fresh flavor. Finely chop it into omelets and salads; make parsley pesto. Spread pesto on steak before broiling; use in herb butter for fish.Storage: Proceed as with basil.
Use lemon thyme sprigs in tea, herb butter for fish, basting juices for chicken salad dressing, or herb jelly with a fruit-juice base. Pull off leaves to use in poultry dressing.Storage: Proceed as with basil.

More on storing and using herbs

For more on  using and storing herbs , visit our sister site  VegetableGardener.com .

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