Post #407 The One Thing You Don’t Want To Do With Your Herbs

August 26, 2015 at 9:42 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Summer is starting to wind down and it’s time to start thinking about what to do with the produce that isn’t going to “winter over” as it’s referred to around here.  Freezing, drying, and canning are the main choices for the home cook.  Space is a big consideration, too.  I’m lucky because the only thing I grew this year that I need to harvest are my “yarbs”, old country talk for herbs.  I grew two pots of basil, one pot of peppermint, one pot of lemon balm, and one pot of sweet mint.

During the Spring and Summer when the herbs were growing strong and high, we used the basil for everything Italian, and the mints for salads and mixed drinks (think mojito.)  So, I thought the best way to preserve my harvest would be to dry the mints and to make a an olive oil and basil puree and freeze it.

Yesterday, I over watered the herbs so the leaves were as plump and juicy as they could be.  It’s kind of fun to watch.  They’ll get a little droopy to let me know they need watering and two hours later they’re practically glistening.  I didn’t spend a lot of time with the herbs except to pluck them when needed, and water every few days.  It was so cool to be able to just wander out to the front “porch” and get what I needed.

Basil

Basil

When you’re growing herbs, you want to pick them while the leaves are tender.  Most of the time this is when they’re small, but allowing the leaves to grow large can also intensify the flavor.  You can also extend the harvest season of your plants by plucking off the blossoms and seed heads as soon as they appear.  For some herbs, the blossoms appear early, and on others they appear late.  The reason to pluck the blossoms or seed heads is once they appear, the plant pours all its efforts into propagation and not into the leaves.  They’ll turn brown and wither and will no longer be able to be eaten.

All my herbs were blossoming.  I decided to pluck only the leaves that were green and healthy looking, but I wanted to do that standing up.  I decided to cut the basil at the ground level and pull the leaves off inside.  Then I was going to wash them and dry them, and process them with olive oil and freeze.  I ended up with an armload of stems which made a light swishing sound when I laid them on the island top in the kitchen.

And about a zillion little bugs of various types scattered.

Yipe!  I hastily reached for the bug spray and quickly squirted everything in sight.  I opened drawer, cabinets, moved things.  After half an hour of searching, I was pretty sure I gotten them all.  I poked through the stalks I’d brought in and found many more dead bugs and spiders, and a few that were still crawling around.  I sprayed the stalks again, then tossed them in the trash barrel.

Well, shoot.  Now I had no basil.  I contemplated that as I idly scratched my shoulder.  Then moved to scratch my stomach.  Then a tickle on my neck bothered me.

WTH?!!!!!

I ran to the bathroom and tore off my t shirt and found, well, not a lot but a few bugs crawling on me!!  A fast jump into the shower and right now all those clothes are in the washing machine.  When I carried all those plants inside, some of the bugs had taken advantage of the new landscape and ridden me into the house.

So here’s the one thing you don’t want to do with herbs if you’re raising them outside.  You don’t want to ignore the fact that they are going to pick up bugs of various sizes.  I had shooed away the spiders, but had ignored everything else.  Or just not been aware of them.  So, the basil is a total write off.

The mint might not be.

lemon balm and sweet mint

lemon balm and sweet mint

In the past, when I’ve grown mint, it lasts through the first frost.  Bugs don’t.  Since I was planning to dry the mint anyway, I think I can harvest around the first frost and it will be bug free.  I’ll have a try at that and see what happens.

peppermint

peppermint

In the meantime, I’ll start planning for how I’m going to grow herbs next year and keep the bugs off.  One idea is to grown them inside.  We have the perfect spot for that.  Or, I can research natural ways to keep bugs off.  I know one way that I’ll have to verify.

For now, I’ll just keep an eye on my mint and see what plays out.  And take a shower every time I feel even the slightest tickle anywhere.

Enjoy

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2 Comments

  1. Howdy! The best way to rid your herbs of bugs is to drown them. Fill a big kettle full of water with a single drop of natural dish soap. Take outside, cut the herbs off at the soil and dump in the water. Swish around for a bit, and lift out. The water should be littered with their wee disgusting corpses. Roll the herbs up in paper towel, and into a plastic bag, and into the fridge. After a few hours carefully unroll and again do the water bath treatment, all bugs should be gone!

    Next year mix up a batch of safe plant spray using natural dish soap and water, unscented so it doesnt confuse the butterflies and bees, spray them liberally once a week, or more often if you see an infestation.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. Dish soap in the spray bottle was the “solution” I was going to verify. I didn’t know about using it to clean the herbs in bulk like you said. It’s a good idea. I’ll have to try it when I have bulk herbs again!


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