My friend Ren gifted me a basil plant from her garden earlier this year. She used clay-like red mud that was present on the properties closer to the river, sprinkled worm castings and some nutrients into the hole before pushing the dirt around the little basil plant, and let me borrow the pot she put it in. I placed the thing inside a wire cage on my porch and it grew wildly into a jungle of basil. I grew the plant until it was spending all its energy making flowers and i was spending all my time pinching them off before the plant could seed and inevitably die. When i could no longer keep up with the plant’s will to flower i harvested the leaves. The haul made 5 packed full sandwich bags of basil. I put them in the crisper drawer until i had a day off when i could dry and process them.
I ran the oven from 10 am to 5 pm. I cooked each sheet of leaves on parchment paper for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
When each batch was cooked i pulled it out of the oven and crumbled all the papery leaves into my coffee grinder. I placed the cap on and pushed the button to turn the blades on and transform the leaves from paper thin teardrops to a fine powder.
I began with a tiny jar full of basil powder and the excess stored in a little square tupperware on my shelf. However, when my friend Ren gifted me chives i needed the jar for those and moved all of the basil powder into the square tupperware.
One day i visited my friend Ren to borrow a different sized screw driver than i had and she gifted me an entire grocery bag of cut chives from her garden. The chives were a little bit more difficult to process but they were my favorite home processed herb to cook with so i was motivated enough to get it done. Because chives are thick at the bottom of the blade, medium in the middle, and thin at the top, they have to be separated into batches accordingly and dried for separate lengths of time depending on thickness, unlike basil which is a consistent thickness all through the leaf.
Due to the tedious and disorganized nature of the process i did not photograph anything but the end result. I was a bit busy trying not to burn it nor put any moist pieces into the grinder which would ultimately mold the batch. Anyways, here is the end result of an entire day of processing chives. There was a smidgeon left over which i placed in a ziploc bag to be used first.
With basil, chives, and sumac processed and jarred i am all ready for cooking throughout the winter when fresh herbs are not readily available in the store. The only thing i would have added had i been doing an herb garden this year would have been dill, but this year was not a financially lucrative year that allowed for the budgeting of an herb garden in the spring. I count myself very lucky to have friends like Ren who would share their harvest with me.
There is nothing tastier than sautéed or roasted vegetables seasoned with freshly dried garden herbs. The herbs taste like the store bought versions if they were a thousand times more flavorful and also toasted.