Tips for using herbs

Herbs can assist in repelling insects and other household pests. Houseflies don’t like basil. Mint repels mice. Fleas, ants and mosquitoes avoid pennyroyal. Plant tansy around the foundation of your house to keep the ants away.

Crushed or powdered herbs can be sown into cheesecloth bags or sachets to be stored among clothes to guard against moths. You may use the following recipe: 4 parts dried, crushed mint, 4 parts dried , crushed rue, 2 parts dried, crushed southernwood, 2 parts dried, crushed rosemary, and 1 part powdered cloves.

To clear the air, you can add a mixture of 1/2 cup lavender flowers, 1/4 cup torn eucalyptus leaves to a quart of water in a glass or stainless steel pot. Heat this until it simmers. Hold the simmer and add water as it evaporates.

Rule of thumb for substituting dried herbs for fresh; Use about 1/3 dried as you would fresh. The dried herb has a more concentrated flavor than fresh.

Some herbs grow well in pots. Basil, bay, chives, mints, oregano, parsley, and sage are examples. With the right treatment they can last from months to a couple of years.

Rubbing fresh herb leaves between your hands or soaking them in a liquid to be used in a recipe will bring out the best aroma and flavor before adding to food.

Add fresh herbs in the last 15-20 minutes when cooking soups and stews which generally require a long cooking time.

During long cooking times, you may enjoy the aroma of herbs. But the oils which provide the flavor are released depending on the herb at 80* to 110*F. You may still smell the pleasing aroma, but much of the
flavor will be gone. You may wish to refresh the flavor near the end of the cooking time.

Using unsalted butter in herb butter recipes allows more of the herb flavor to come through and controls the salt intake.

To store fresh herbs, tie a small quantity of any fresh herb in a tight bunch. Wrap in wet paper towels and tuck the bunch into a plastic bag, leaving the end open to the air. Herbs will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Or you can put the bunch of herbs in a small vase filled with water and keep them in the fresh air, but out of the sun.

To prepare herbs for freezing, brush soil away rather than washing. Washing will remove some of the flavor. Tough stems should be removed; tender stems can be frozen. Herbs do not require blanching; except for basil, which may turn black if not blanched. Leaves or sprigs may be frozen on a baking sheet, then transferred to glass jars. Crumbled herbs may be frozen with water in ice cube trays. (Put 1-2 teaspoons of herbs per ice cube tray.) When the cubes freeze, pop them out of the tray and into a freezer bag. Shelf-life, about six months.

After herbs are dried, they will keep flavor better if they are kept whole rather than crumbled. Tightly seal the herbs in a glass jar in a cool, dark place. Shelf-life is about one year.

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