While weeding the herb bed recently, I realised that the herbs were at their absolute peak, and it wouldn’t be too long (especially in this dry weather) before some of them start to flower and go past their best. Some of the more woody herbs like rosemary and sage, stay useable all year round, but the more tender ones like oregano and tarragon, need to be picked and used at their peak, which also encourages them to produce more leaves. Even with the woody herbs, the fresh new growth is much tastier. In past years, this moment has passed me by until it’s too late, so I decided to seize the moment, and a carrier bag was quickly filled to the brim.
On the chopping board are:
1. Oregano and marjoram
5. Tarragon (and a small amount of Hyssop).
My parsley and basil (grown from seed) are still too young to harvest, and the chives have been a bit over used lately. I did later add some garden mint to the mix though. I used as much of these herbs as I could fresh that day (made a lovely herb omelette) and I decided to dry the rest. In previous years I have dried my herbs by hanging bunches of them up-side-down somewhere dry and sunny, and then stripping the stems and chopping the leaves up. But John suggested I chop them and spread them out to dry.
I’ve not tried doing it this way around before, but it was very successful. It took about 3 days for the herbs to completely dry, but that’s still quicker than the hanging method. If you’re in a real hurry, I believe you can put them into a very low oven with the door ajar, but I’ve not tried that either, so can’t testify.
After a further chopping (the smell was incredible) I had enough to fill 3/4 of a small kilner jar, which should keep me going for a while. Obviously, you could dry and contain each herb separately if you prefer, but out of laziness I decided to go for mixed herbs.
I also saved some of the tarragon and used the pinched out tops of my basil to make some herb butter. This is basically just softened butter, a squeeze of lemon juice and the chopped herbs mixed together. You then place dollops of the mixture onto greaseproof paper and roll it into a sausage shape. Place it in the fridge to harden and then cut slices of it to melt into a pan, or to top things going into the oven, or perhaps melt into the final stages of a risotto? Use your imagination.