Monday, June 21, 2010

Drying Wild Herbs (and a surprise visiter!)

Early summer bursts with abundance, and I've been lucky enough to discover some really fabulous, fragrant wild herbs right here in the fields accross from my home. My most recent findings were wild thyme, oregano, and mint. All of which are tasty and smell amazing, and can be used either fresh or dried. 


I found these three herbs after a long period of rain. The farmer who owns the land had just mown the tall grass, but left islands of grass (and herbs) in-tact. 




Thyme grows very close to the ground in clusters, with wild strawberries right close by. They like the same kind of soil. 




Oregano grows in wetter areas, near mint, who also likes it moist. 




Wild mint smells absolutely amazing. It has a soft feel to it, like lamb's ear, and the leaves have a silvery underside. I found fistfuls of this delicious herb, which I add fresh to cold drinks and yogurt dressing for cucumber salad, and use dry in tea.


Back at home, with shoulders burnt and speckled with new freckles from spending so much time gathering under the hot summer sun, I sort and organize the herbs. 




Clockwise, beginning at top right: yellow and pink rose petals, mint on a baking sheet, piles of mint, oregano, and thyme, yarrow blossoms and lemon balm.


To quickly dry herbs, for example when it's damp, raining, or humid, spread your herbs in an even, single layer on baking paper on a baking sheet. Set your oven to the lowest heat (which is 50°c/122°f on my oven), and slide the baking sheet in. Keep the oven door open a crack with a wooden spoon. It will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the herb, for it to completely dry. Herbs are sufficiently dry when they are crackly. Any softer and they may go mouldy in storage.


Let your herbs cool completely before storing them. Glass jars are beautiful, but this year, since it's so humid and damp, I've been storing my herbs in plastic freezer bags on the shelves of my kitchen island. 


To dry the thyme and oregano, which are used most frequently in my kitchen, I tied them into little bouquets with twine. They dry beautifully when hung from a hook.




As I write this, there is a dark grey little squirrel with a white belly eating oats from the bird feeder and inspecting our balcony. It is absolutely adorable. When I found that pantry moths had gotten into our walnut store, I put them out into the feeder. They were gone the next morning, and I suspected squirrels, because there was no way the birds alone could have eaten all those nuts. I am going to put out more nuts soon, and hope that this little guy will keep coming back. 


Look, I managed to get a picture!






It's one of the things that makes me sorry we are moving. I hope the next resident of this apartment will put out food for the wildlife.


Thank you all for your cheerful congratulations! It's been wonderful to paint every day. I won't be able to share many of my paintings with you, as they are going to be published. But just knowing you are all rooting for me is a fantastic feeling! Thank you!







love, xoxo, country girl

9 comments:

  1. Great post - I will definately use your hints with my herbs. I grow them and use them but have never dried them before. I think I'm more addicted to herbs than flowers lately!
    Have a great week!
    Sarah

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  2. Every time I go for country walk I think of you. I see all sorts of palnts around me and I wonder if they're any good, to pick, I have no idea except for the few wils fruits and asparagous. However I was told that around the orange groves they spray so much insecticide that nothing would be good to pick where i go walking. Sad.
    I love that your book is going to come out, I want a copy for my nieces.... and if you wnat it translated into Spanish you know where I am ;) xoxo

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  3. Dearest Deb,

    It is so nice to know that you associate me with nature, and think of me on your walks! I am sorry to hear that the plants in your area are being sprayed. I hope you can at least still enjoy looking at them.

    xoxo

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  4. Ph and to see your hands holding the lill bouquets! So sweet...thank you for sharing your beautiful heart with us here...

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  5. Gorgeous post Dawn! I love using fresh herbs, but I have nerver dried them before. I dry lavender and roses, so next timme I shall dry herbs also.
    Cute little squirrel too :)
    Love Morwenna xo

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  6. Dawn..love all your posts and especially the herbs and how to dry them etc. We're growing some this year for a first and nice to know how to dry them. (Thank you!)

    Love the picture of your squirrel!! Ours are red!!

    Have a blessed day!!
    xoxo Gert

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  7. It's all so sweet and quaint the way you assemble these little treasures. I hope soon tho that you're too busy being a mom to have much time to blog or that you will have little baby blog antics among the herbs.

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  8. ooo what is this about paintings? Must read on...and I am amazed at where you live - such wild herbs and food in abundance...Is the UK like this in such a way? I'm not so sure...

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