Good morning, good morning! This is a follow up post to this one I wrote last year because I have a fun little idea to share with you. I have been hanging herbs for years now, having started this fun little means of preservation back when we lived right next to the River Market in Kansas City. Coffee in hand on early weekend mornings, Andrew and I would walk to the market and I’d get a big bunch of locally grown herbs to cook with for supper throughout the week. As summer would start winding down, I buy herbs to take home and hang so I’d have bunches on hand for autumn and winter meals. I could never get over why herbs were so darn expensive in the store, yet one could buy them in bulk, or better yet grow their own, and use them throughout the year for a fraction of the cost. At that time we didn’t have any outdoor space to call our own, but thinking back I think I could have easily put a pot out somewhere to grow something. Alas, the three places we lived in after that open-air loft did have private outdoor spaces, two of them sizable balconies, where I grew many herbs throughout the growing season.
In our last home I’d hang herbs I both grow and bought at the market on our exposed shelving in the kitchen, an easy place near the stove where I could grab some when needed, putting them in slow cooked meals for an extra boost of flavor. In our current home, I had been hanging our herbs on the peg rack in the mudroom, but I’ve recently started drying so many that I decided to come up with another location for them. Another home so I can really take advantage of all the yummy herbs our garden is providing. Also, it’s not very sanitary to dry herbs next to the brooms, however pretty they may be.
One afternoon I was putting away groceries in the cupboard right next to our tiered hanging wire basket and realized that this neat contraption just might be the perfect way to dry our herbs in addition to storing some of our fruits and veggies. I realized that by hanging the herbs off the bottom of the third larger basket with some jute or string they would hang pretty low, so I simply removed the larger basket on the bottom (which I suppose you could easily do with the top) and started from there. This ensured that this would be out of reach for the kids and I grabbed my role of jute. I took the herbs I had been drying in the mud room and moved them, fastening each tied bundle to the bottom basket by tying a double knot with some string to hang loose. I decided to keep the length of the ropes varied so the greens would look like they were dancing around up there next to the window in our nook. I loved the way it turned out.
I was originally inspired by this pretty herb hanger that I’ve had on my wish list for years now, but I honestly can’t come up with a place to hang it and don’t want to purchase it just because, so this is the perfect solution! And you may be asking, what does one use these dried herbs for? They are the perfect addition to cooler weather soups and stews. Honestly, herbs and spices make all the difference when slow cooking so I always have a a wide variety on hand. I add my dried herbs during the cooking process as opposed to after, for a bit of freshening as I would with non-dried ones. Most dried herbs have a tendency to get stronger with time, the drying process concentrating their flavor.
It’s also worth mentioning that not all herbs are best for drying. I suppose you could dry them, but personally I think some are better dried and some are just better fresh. But that’s me! I think the best herbs for drying are ones with woody stems, much like the process you would follow when wanting to dry flowers. Such herbs include:
Then there are herbs I prefer not to dry but rather chop up and add to dishes when they are completed. Adding fresh herbs to sauces, homemade salad dressings, and on the top of slow cooked meals is my favorite way to use fresh herbs. They add a unique brightness that the dried variety cannot match. Such herbs include:
- Parsley – (Shown in Part One of this post series…but not recommended as it didn’t fare well)
I’d like to include that the recipes I’ve come across that say you can use either fresh or dried herbs, depending on your preference, are not giving you the whole picture. Fresh basil, for example, does not taste anything like dried basil. Dried cilantro, don’t even think about it. I don’t even know what recipe I’d use that for! Stick to fresh when recipes say ‘use fresh’ and stick to dried when recipes say ‘use dried’ and you’ll be a happy camper. Follow the simple guidelines above and you can’t go wrong with these lovely flavors. And one more thing, dried herbs can lose their aroma and therefore end up not giving off any flavor when you add them to a dish. Make sure if you are using dried to smell them beforehand. If they smell strong, they are good to go! If they smell like cardboard, toss them. What dishes do you like to use dried herbs in? What about fresh herbs? Let’s hear your herbal inspiration!