Saturday morning at the farmers’ market was supposed to be a quick trip for fruit and vegetables. I had errands aplenty and an evening baseball game. (Fast forward to evening activity – “my” Washington Nationals got creamed by the worst team in major league baseball, the Houston Astros, by a score of 9-3. Ouch!) But as often happens when I see great stuff at the farmers’ market, I ended up with an impulse purchase. This time it was 2 huge bunches of basil – 1 green and the other purple. I’m surely not the only impulse buyer, but I am always chiding myself afterward, for not sticking to my shopping list.
Purple basil is beautiful. It has a stronger, less sweet taste than the green type.
The basil only cost $1 per bunch, so it wasn’t a major budget-buster, but I did need to figure out what to do with the extra herbs. I realized my predicament standing in front of Anthony’s farm stand and he suggested drying them.
I’m a city girl, born and bred. My idea of gardening is putting a few herbs in pots on my back deck. My more elaborate gardening efforts have never yielded anything worth writing about, much less eating or showing off in a vase. But drying sounded like something I could handle. Besides, I’m always encouraging my kids to try new things and to be brave. How could I not follow my own advice? (Rhetorical question alert! It is much harder to take one’s own good advice than to give it.)
Anthony’s directions were simple – hang the basil stems, separated out and upside down, in a reasonably warm, dry place with air circulating for about a week. Move them a bit over the course of the week. When the herbs are fully dry, put them in a container; Anthony suggested a ziploc plastic bag with the air pressed out.
Basil from the farmers’ market, thyme & chives from the back deck.
The idea of drying fresh herbs was enticing for other reasons besides allowing me to store my newly purchased basil. In recent years, as summer waned and cold weather arrived, some of my home-grown herbs died before I figured out what to do with them. The weather report calls for a cold snap at the end of this week and drying my home-grown herbs might save them this year.
My back deck basil didn’t do well this year, but the thyme grew like wildfire.
Dried herbs are more potent than fresh ones and last far longer if kept dry in an airtight container. I love the prospect of using home-dried herbs and think they may be much nicer than the store-bought dried ones I typically use in the winter.
So I tried an experiment. With help from my HH (handy husband – yes, I should be ashamed that I could do this on my own), I put a string on hooks under my kitchen counter. I put the purple basil looped over the string as instructed and added chives and thyme from my garden.
Day 2 – added green basil in a paper bag.
Day 2 I added green (sweet) in a paper bag with holes because I found directions for drying basil from the National Center for Home Food Preservation that suggested using a bag to catch any leaves that fall off during the drying process. I’ll compare it to the purple basil that is not covered.
Today is day 3. I’ll take pictures as the week progresses and report back next Monday on how the experiment goes. What cooking or food-related experiment have you tried recently? (And that’s not a rhetorical question.)