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How to grow, use and preserve your fresh herbs

When it comes time to plant, choose a good quality soil and add organic fertilizer to the mix.
When it comes time to plant, choose a good quality soil and add organic fertilizer to the mix. - Contributed

In the summer, fresh herbs have a special place in our gardens and on our plates! Here are some helpful tips on how to grow, use and preserve these delicious and aromatic leafy greens. Cultivation

If you would love to harvest your own fresh herbs but have limited gardening experience, opt for easy-to-grow varieties like parsley, chive and basil.

There are all kinds of fresh garden herbs to choose from at your local nursery or garden centre. Make sure to select plants that already have a good height (10 centimetres or more), as well as a vigorous shoot and a healthy appearance (suspicious spots are usually a sign of disease).

When it comes time to plant, choose a good quality soil and add organic fertilizer to the mix. For optimal results, ask a gardening specialist in-store for advice; they’ll be able to tell you exactly which types of herbs coexist the best when planted in proximity to one another.

Preparation

Do you have a generous supply of fresh herbs in your garden but aren’t sure how to include them in your cooking? Here are 10 gourmet combinations to help inspire your next meal:

  1. Dill eggs stuffed with silken tofu
  2. Oregano and tomato salad dressed in balsamic vinegar
  3. Chive and roasted garlic sweet potatoes
  4. Coriander mussels marinated in white wine
  5. Mint tabbouleh with seasonal fruit
  6. Sage and mushroom risotto
  7. Basil clams marinated in butter
  8. Parsley- and honey-covered lamb
  9. Thyme and parmesan oysters
  10. Rosemary beef braised in red wine

Note: Thyme, rosemary and parsley are three varieties of herbs that can endure long cooking times, so don’t hesitate to throw them in your slow cooker or simmering stews!

Preservation

For weeklong freshness, simply wrap your fresh herbs in a paper towel (or any other type of absorbent material) and store them in the fridge in a plastic Ziploc bag.

To keep your refrigerated herbs intact for about three weeks, place them, stem down, in a pot or glass of water (about two centimetres deep). Next, carefully cover them with plastic wrap and bind the ends together with an elastic band to keep them in place. Make sure to change the water each time you pick a few herbs from the bunch.

Furthermore, you can preserve your fresh herbs for several months at a time by storing them in the freezer. You can either keep them whole in a freezer bag or chop them up and place them in an ice tray covered with water (or vegetable oil, if dealing with basil). Once frozen, the ice cubes can also be transferred to a freezer bag for guaranteed results. This way, you can prepare a delicious soup or a rich stew infused with the flavours of basil, parsley, thyme, sage, etc., even in the fall! All you have to do is turn to your personal supply of carefully preserved herbs.

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