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Writing about the things I love. My writing work has appeared in hard copy magazines including Green Prints, Twins Magazine, Practical Parenting Magazine, The Journal of Court Reporting, and more as well as hundreds of articles in Sunset Hosta Farm's Hosta blog and The Homesteading Village blog.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Growing Basil - Homesteading 101


Basil is a warm-season tender herb with soft stems and leaves.  It's popular for many reasons.  It makes the perfect partner for tomatoes, not only in the garden where its strong scent may confuse predatory insect pests but also chopped and sprinkled on thick slices of juicy tomatoes, still warm from the sun.



Basil with a bowl of tomatoes

Popular types of Basil



Christmas Basil Height: 16-20"

This basil will add a fruity flavor to salads and drinks.  It has glossy green leaves and purple flowers.


Cinnamon Basil Height 25-30"

This basil has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor.  It has dark purple stems and flowers and small glossy leaves.  It's used in fresh arrangements and in fruit salads and as garnishes.



Dark Opal Basil Height 14-20"

Spicy basil in salads, in pesto and as garnishes.  Purple stems, flowers, and leaves.



Holy Basil Height 12-14"

The leaves are used to make tea for boosting your immune system.  Mottled green and purple leaves.



Lemon Basil Height 20-24"

Lemon basil is used in fish dishes and iced tea.  Light green leaves with white flowers.



Lime Basil Height 12-16"

Lime basil is a compact basil with green leaves and white flowers.  It's used with fresh fish and chicken dishes, teas and margaritas.



Purple Ruffle Basil Height 16-20"

This basil has the same flavor as Opal basil and is used for floral arrangements and garnishes.



Sweet Basil Height 14-30"

Sweet Basil is used in Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto.  It's more prolific in hot sunny locations.



Sweet Tai Basil Height 12-16"

An Asian variety with a distinct spicy anise-clove flavor.  Purple stems and blooms with green leaves.



Basil Seedlings in small blue pots

Starting Basil from Seed


Seed Longevity:                                      5 years. 
Seed Sowing Depth:                               Just cover.
Days to harvest:                                      60-90 days.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:             75-85 degrees.
Days to Germination:                               5-10 days.








Spring Sowing                                    

Sow indoors 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.  Plant out after all danger of frost has passed.






Direct Sowing

Direct sow seeds straight into the garden after the danger of frost has passed.  

                                  
Milk Jugs used as winter sowing seed containers   


Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here.









Growing Basil


Plant size:                                          See list above.
Growing Soil Temperature:                75-85 degrees. 
Spacing:                                             4-8" apart.
Container Size:                                  16"-18" diameter.
Soil:                                                    Well-drained, moderately rich and loose.
Watering:                                            Light and even.
Light/Sun:                                           Full sun  6-8 hours.

Good Companions:                           Pepper, tomatoes.
Bad Companions:                             Beans, cabbage, cucumbers.
Fertilizer:                                         

If grown in rich soil, none.  Otherwise, light fertilizer one time during the growing season.



Scissors snipping off basil cutting from plant

Basil Cuttings

Take a 4" long cutting from a stem that hasn't flowered yet.  Remove the leaves from the bottom 2" and place in water on a windowsill.  After the roots are 2" long, usually 2-4 weeks, pot in soil and continue to grow.  



Harvesting Basil

Use fresh basil leaves any time.  Basil is at its peak flavor then the buds are about to blossom.  

Harvest the whole plant before frost, preferably in the morning.

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Harvesting Basil Seeds

Wait until the stem or seed pods turn brown.  When the seeds are viable, they will be black in color.



Basil plant growing in a pot

Storing Basil


Fresh
Bouquet Storage  
 

Clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Trim the end of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves.  Place the Basil into a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water like a bouquet of flowers.  Leave at room temperature.


Freezing

For best results, use frozen Basil within one year.
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.
Here are some suggestions for freezing:


Whole Leaf Freeze

Remove the stems.  Blanch the leaves for 2 seconds, then dunk in ice water bath.  Dry completely and store in freezer bags.


Ice Cube Trays

Remove the stems, clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Puree one cup of basil with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Freeze the pureed basil in ice cube trays firmly packed 3/4 full.  Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.






Flat Freezer Bag

Remove stems, clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Chop herb into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.








Drying

Basil does not dry well.



Using Basil

Basil's rich, spicy flavor, likened to pepper with a hint of mint and cloves, works wonders in pesto, tomato sauces, salads, cheese dishes, eggs, stews, vinegars and all sorts of vegetables.  You'll find basil used often in Italian and Thai foods.



Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.




To view the other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.


Chives

Cilantro


Dill


Mint


Oregano


Parsley


Rosemary


Thyme


Sage










This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Growing Rosemary - Homesteading 101



Rosemary is a hardy evergreen shrub that is a staple in any herb garden.  Perennial in Zones 7 – 10 (and borderline Zone 6), Rosemary is one of the most aromatic and pungent of all of the woody herbs.  The leaves have a lemony flavor that pairs well with lamb, garlic and olive oil.  The flowers can be blue, pink, purple or white.





Starting Rosemary from Seed

Rosemary can be difficult to grow from seed and often does not grow true to their parent plant.  Taking cuttings is recommended as opposed to seed sowing, but here's the information in case you prefer to try.

Seed Longevity:                               1 year.
Seed Sowing Depth:                        Just cover.  Needs some light to germinate.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:      70 degrees.  Heat mat will help.
Days to Germination:                       14-21+ days.



Spring Sowing

Sow indoors 10-12 weeks before the last frost date to plant out after the last frost date.

Don't transplant seedlings until they're well established.



Winter Sowing


If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here.


Herb Scissors


Herb Mincer



Growing Rosemary

Plant Size:                              Height 1-8’  Width 2-4’.
Spacing:                                 Up to 3'.
Container Size:                       12” Deep  12” Wide.
Soil:                                         Sandy, well-drained.
Light/Sun:                                Full sun, 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.
Fertilizer:                                  5-10-5 in Spring.






Other Care Tips

Watering:                                                     

It needs excellent drainage.  Relatively drought tolerant.  Let the soil dry out between waterings.
                                  
Will grow back after extensive pruning.


Dividing Rosemary

Rosemary is a small woody shrub that should not be divided.  However, since Rosemary has rooted layers, the layers (branches that have developed roots while touching the soil) can be cut off the parent plant, dug up and replanted as though they were a division.



Rosemary Cuttings

Take a 4” cutting from the tip of the stem.  Remove leaves 1” from the base.  Put cutting in peat moss and vermiculite medium.  The cutting will root in 3-4 weeks.  Transfer to a 4” pot to let the root ball form, then transfer into larger pot or garden.

Harvesting Rosemary

Snip off sprigs of Rosemary all summer and into the fall and winter as needed.  It is possible to bring small plants inside.


Harvesting Rosemary Seed

The seed pods are very small.  Let them dry out on the plant, then remove them by pinching them off with your fingers.  Dry pods thoroughly in a paper bag for two weeks.  After they’re dry, rub pods to release the seeds.  Store in an airtight container.


Storing Rosemary

Fresh
Damp Paper Towel

This method works well for hardy herbs that have woody stems as well as a few soft-stemmed herbs.

Clean and thoroughly dry the Rosemary.  Arrange lengthwise in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel.  Loosely roll up the herb and transfer to a plastic bag or plastic wrap.  Label and store in the fridge.   Rosemary will stay fresh in the fridge using this method for up to 3 weeks.

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Freezing

For best results, use frozen Rosemary within 1-2 years.
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.
Here are some freezing methods to consider:

Tray Freeze

Spread the Rosemary onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then transfer the Rosemary into a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.

Ice Cube Trays with Oil

This method works well for hard-stemmed herbs that would probably be cooked when adding to a dish.  The oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burn.
Clean and thoroughly dry the Rosemary.  Mince and firmly pack herbs into an ice cube tray 3/4 full.  Add Olive Oil to fill and freeze.  Transfer frozen cubes into labeled freezer bags to store.

Flat Freezer Bag

Trim off the stems and place them in a labeled freezer bag.  Squeeze out the air, flatten the freezer bag, label and store.



Drying Rosemary

Rosemary is one of the best herbs to dry.  For best results, use dried Rosemary within 1-2 years.


Hang to Dry

Pick your Rosemary in bunches right before you intend to store them.  Tie the bottom of the bunch together with twine and hang upside down to dry in a dry, low humidity area. For added protection against dust, you can put the bundles inside paper bags with plenty of holes for ventilation.  When the herbs are dry, the leaves will crumble easily between your fingers.  Store in an airtight container.


Using Rosemary


  • Great when used with pork, chicken, and potatoes.
  • Rosemary’s spiky leaves can be used fresh or dried for long cooking in soups, meats, stews, and sauces.  
  • Because the flavor is so strong, it’s best to add Rosemary sparingly at first adding more if needed.

Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.


To view other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.


This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

Growing Chives - Homesteading 101


Chives are a tender herb with soft stems and leaves.  It’s one of the easiest perennial herbs to grow in Zones 3 – 9 and one of the earliest plants to appear in the spring. They produce lovely fuzzy flowers in pink and purple.   They are a special treat for those first-of-the-year salads.  Chives add a flavor similar to onions without the bite.  Chives grow as a grass-like plant and grow easily indoors or outdoors.  Many gardeners even grow chives on a window sill for fresh chives all year long.




Types of Chives

Fine Leaf – A thinner, smaller, good choice for fresh use.
Purly – Thicker leaves, more productive.
Staro – Large thick leaves better for freezing or drying.
Garlic – Larger than common chives.  The flat, tender leaves have a flavor in between garlic and onion.






Starting Chives from Seed

Chives started from seed can take a year before they're large enough to harvest.  In about 2-3 years you will then be able to divide the clumps for more plants.  So if you have the time, it's worth doing.


Seed Longevity:                                            One to two years.  
Seed Depth:                                                  Surface or just barely cover.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:                   60 – 85 degrees.
Days to Germination:                                    7-14.
Spring Sowing:                                     
Sow in a windowsill pot any time.
Direct sow in outdoors spring after danger of frost has passed.


Winter Sowing


If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here.







Growing Chive Plants

Plant Size:                                                     Height  12-15” May spread a foot across.
Growing Soil Temperature:                            55 – 70 degrees.
Spacing:                                                         6-8” apart.
Container Size:                                              Any width  12” deep.
Soil:                                                               Thrives in nearly any soil.  Prefers high organic matter.          
Watering:                                                      Moderate, consistent.
Light/Sun:                                                     Full sun to part shade.
Fertilizer:                                                      If grown in soil amended with compost, no further fertilizer.
Good Companions:                                     Carrot and tomatoes.
Bad Companions:                                        Beans and peas.

Other Chive Information:
Dies back to the ground in winter in cooler climates.
It can remain evergreen in warmer climates.



Dividing Chives

Chive clumps can be divided in early spring or mid-fall anytime three years after sowing from seed.  Thin the clumps to 6 to 10 shoots per clump and replant at 8” apart.  Allow divided plants to grow for several weeks before harvesting the leaves.

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Harvesting Chive Seeds

Harvest chive seeds when the seed head has dried and you can see the black round seeds.  Use quickly as Chive seeds, like Onion seeds, are only viable for one to two years.


Harvesting Chive Leaves

Harvest early in the morning whenever the leaves are large enough.  The best time to harvest is when the leaves are young and before the seeds develop.  Snip off leaves or snip off the entire clump leaving 2”.

Storing Chives

Fresh
Bouquet Storage

This method works well for tender herbs with soft stems and leaves.
Clean and thoroughly dry the Chives.  Trim the end of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves.  Place the Chives in a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water like a bouquet of flowers.  Loosely cover with a plastic bag or cling wrap.  Label and store in the fridge.

Chives will stay fresh in the fridge with this method for up to one week. 

Herb Scissors


Herb Mincer


Freezing

Chives are one of the best herbs to freeze.  For best results, use frozen Chives within 1-2 years.

Here are a few freezing methods to consider:


Tray Freeze

Spread Chives onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then transfer the frozen Chive pieces into a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, later you can easily remove the amount you need.

Ice Cube Trays

Clean and thoroughly dry the Chives.  Mince and firmly pack the Chives into ice cube trays 3/4 full.  Add water to fill and freeze.  Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.

These silicone ice cube trays are perfect for herbs.





Flat Freezer Bag

Clean and thoroughly dry the chives.  Chop the chives into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.


Drying

Hang to Dry

Pick your herbs in bunches right before you intend to store them.  Tie the bottom of the bunch together with twine and hang upside down to dry in a dry, low humidity area. For added protection against dust, you can put the bundles inside paper bags with plenty of holes for ventilation.  When the herbs are dry, the leaves will crumble easily between your fingers.  Store in an airtight container. 
For best use, use dried Chives within 1-2 years



Using Chives


  • Use Chives at the very end of the cooking process as their mild flavor is destroyed by heat.
  • Use Chives with sour cream, butter or cottage cheese for dips and spreads. 
  • Flowers are edible and have a more pungent, onion-like flavor.
  • Chives blend well with parsley and tarragon.
  • Looks great as a garnish.
  • Great used for companion planting next to carrots.






Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.

To view other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.


Basil

Cilantro


~~~~~~~~~~





This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.


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