Friday, August 12, 2011

A slight inkling of fall...

Now that August has arrived it means a couple things. First, we're nearing the end of summer and I always think, "how did that happen?" At the beginning of summer, I think of the time stretching out in front of me and before I know it I'm looking backwards and thinking, "where did it go?" I read that the last two weeks of July are the hottest of the year, on average. So I think of the arrival of August as the start of more moderate weather. Not that there won't still be hot days, but there are mornings when I take Lucy out and I can feel a slight change in the air that makes me think fall is not too far off.

It's also prime time for harvesting and preserving your herbs. Other than newly planted herbs, everything should be well-established and ready for a large harvest. Annuals and herbaceous perennials (those that will die back in the fall - mint, oregano, etc.) can be cut back by a third to a half. Woody-stemmed perennials like thyme, sage and rosemary can be cut back by a third. You should stop these large harvest of woody perennials around Labor Day so the remaining foliage can offer some protection for the crown of the plant over winter. Pick a dry day and go out and harvest.

Either dry or freeze your bounty. If you're drying, make sure the herbs are thoroughly dry - crispy like cornflakes - before you store them in a glass jar or zippered bag away from heat or light.

Other ideas for dealing with an abundance of herbs - make an herbal vinegar or herb butter. The latter is very easy to do. Soften a stick of butter or margarine. Add about a tablespoon of chopped herb to butter and blend. Refrigerate to allow the flavor to develop. You can also freeze herb butters for a wintertime treat. Place the blended butter on plastic wrap. Shape into a log. Wrap in foil, label and freeze. When you take it out of the freezer, slice individual rounds and enjoy. Great on bread, rolls, rice, noodles, vegetables, grilled fish and more.

August is a slow time in the garden for perennials, but annuals tide us over. Looking good - calendula, nicotiana (fragrant at night), zinnias, annual statice, celosia, gem marigolds and snapdragons.

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