Drying Herbs

Drying herbs, sage and thyme

The above photo is from my first drying session, late summer. Pick your herbs mid-morning, when their oils are strongest but they aren’t all dew-covered OR wilted from the mid-day sun. This is especially key for sage! I rinsed my herbs to get rid of any bugs, threw them in the salad spinner, and let them dry a little more while I prepared the bags. You don’t want any mold-causing moisture. Actually, for this drying session, the sage was still pretty damp so I gave it a session with my hairdryer in the bathroom (and got side-eye from Nick for it, if I remember correctly).

I used a hole-puncher on folded up paper lunch bags, bundled the thyme and sage into little bouquets, and tied them off with kitchen twine before hanging them inside the bags (held near the folded top with a binder clip).

You want to keep these somewhere dark where air regularly circulates. I chose the bottom shelf of my pantry cabinet, which gets opened often. We’re a bit limited on dark, cool spaces around here.

You can check on their progress periodically, but I didn’t bother, I just processed them into little Mason jars a month or two later, when I had the time.

Thyme, rosemary, and sage, dried and packaged

Thyme on the left, rosemary up top, and crumbled sage on the right.

For my second round of drying, I grabbed more thyme, more sage, and newcomers parsley and rosemary (why, I’m not sure, since rosemary grows everywhere in Seattle…particularly downtown, where I’ve heard they plant it to cover up the smell of urine from the homeless—or possibly the evening revelers).

Parsley was a terrible mistake (it turned brown and didn’t really get crisp), which I’m bummed about because I ran out of dried parsley a few months ago and can’t bring myself to buy more when I KNOW the garden’s going to be overrun with it again this coming year. I also now have a food dehydrator on my wish list, but until then, I’ll be attempting to dry parsley in the oven vs. a bag.

The rosemary dried just as well as the thyme and sage, though. I’ll probably send some to my folks’ back east since no one around here needs it!

Seed Anticipation

Borage and The Bee

Borage from last year

I bought a crapton of seeds online (thanks, new job!) and am now impatiently waiting for them to arrive.

The one that gives me the most chuckles: I bought borage seeds, so I can plant it to attract bees to my tomato plants. Borage, the runner-up-scourge of my 2014 garden. I was pulling up borage seedlings for weeks. It doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy cucumbers in any form that’s not a Klaussen pickle (borage smells and tastes like fuzzy cucumbers). The previous owners told me it tastes good frozen in ice cubes destined for cocktails, but that sounds like something a gin-lover says.

An Update on the 2014 Plantings

Frosty fava beans

Fava Beans / Radishes

Sad trombone. We received some sharp frosts late fall, which totally murdered the radishes straight away. They had some mildly radish-y looking roots, but weren’t anywhere near mature. The frost also half-killed the fava bean plants…one or two might have recovered, but they depressed me so much that I decided to turn them under for the nitrogen mid-January.

Carrots

I was pulling these up throughout January, basically using that bed as cold storage until Nick was ready for more lunch carrots. They were a little stunted (averaging about 3″–5″ and not TOO thin) because I’d planted them far too close together, but friend/coworker Stephanie gave rave reviews of their flavor (they were pretty delicious).

I cleaned out/turned under that bed a couple of weeks ago, and pulled up at least 20 normal- to sad-looking carrots destined for the food scraps bin. The squirrels, too, had discovered them, so many were partially dug up and gnawed. Overall, though, a thoroughly succesful planting and next round I’ll be more careful to plant them in an organized, well-spaced fashion.

Tomatoes

Those were, indeed, the last harvest from our neighbor’s kindly gift.

Garlic

Several weeks after I de-stemmed the last of my garlic, I gave a bunch away (to the lovely garlic-loving vegetarian Breanna), and spent an evening breaking apart each head and peeling each clove. I now have a not-insignificant amount of peeled garlic cloves in a bag in the freezer, and it’s fantastic. I also planted the cloves from the few heads I saved for my 2015 crop, and they’re coming along fabulously!

Spinach

Back in September I said I should have minded this better, but after the frosts, this was what survived the best! It was looking decently healthy for being ignored for so long. I ate a couple leaves while turning the plants under in January.

Purple Green Beans

These guys were awesome. I will definitely plant them again, despite my mistake in thinking they’d be a climbing plant (they were bush). Such a pretty color on the bush, plus the bonus of knowing when they’re fully cooked by the color (they turn from a deep purple to a bright green when cooked).

Sugar Snap Peas

Nick’s daughter ate these by the double-fist-full every chance she got. Rave reviews of how sweet and delicious they were when I brought a gallon-sized bag of them to a Ladies’ Weekend, too.

Swiss Chard

A big fat fail. The Neem oil did not work. I will be nicer to you next year, Swiss chard.

An Update on What’s Already Truckin’ for 2015

Rhubarb

Aw, look how weird and charming baby rhubarb is. This isn’t red rhubarb, but green rhubarb, which tastes the same but is much more productive. Nick’s mother’s trick is to put red food coloring into her rhubarb compotes. My solution was to make a strawberry rhubarb pie (right, just for the color!). The pie’s from last summer. Nick prefers straight rhubarb pie, so that’s on the to-do list for this year.

Garlic

Every single clove I planted came up! Including two I thought weren’t going to after most of them sprouted, so I shoved a couple more cloves down into the soil a couple of weeks later. Since those turned out to be doubles, I pulled up the weaker of each set.

Onions

A late fall cold snap (which included a tiny bit of snow) did some serious damage to these poor little seedlings. I planted leeks, Walla Wallas, and shallots each in a corner of a triangle-shaped bed, and I think only the leeks have survived. They’re still pretty shrimpy, though. Also, next year? I’ll be better about noting what I plant where in a bed. Sigh.

Chives

I planted chives both early and late summer and they did not make it either time. I planted some inside, in a small planter in a window, and forgot to tell Nick to water the pot on his rounds. Thumbs down on chives for me. Unless, watch, those suckers take hold and run wild like the parsley and borage did in summer 2014.

Fall Seedlings

This bed has now sprouted fava beans (on the left) and radishes, which are looking a little harried. It doesn’t help that an animal (neighbor’s cat, or the raccoons that visit nightly) has been digging around in here a lot.

Next Year’s Garlic & Onions

Overwintering for 2015! I saved a few heads of garlic from this summer’s harvest and the cloves I planted are coming up (not all, but most, at least so far).

On the right is the tiniest Walla Walla onion. I’m trying to grow from seed…so far so good, we’ll see if they survive the winter.

The shallots and leeks (both also from seed) are coming up too, and look exactly like the onions. I’m trying to beat back the other sprouting greens in this bed but it’s proving difficult when they’re so small.

It Lives!

five-way apple tree

The apple tree sprouted a new branch below the break!

(This apple tree was a five-way grafted apple tree…most of the apples ended up with worms, particularly the red ones, but some of the yellow-y skinned ones were huge and worm-free and amazingly delicious. Pretty sure this split means the tree is now a four-way apple tree.)