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COLUMN: Class provides tips for growing herbs

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By Theresa Howard

Most culinary herbs are perennials. Perennials live more than two growing seasons. Herbs will do well in pots, if adequate drainage is provided. Use a good-quality potting mix with fertilizer.

Container herbs will require more moisture than garden-grown herbs, and many will benefit from after-noon shade.

When harvesting herbs, leaves may be cut from the plant as they are needed. Most herbs reach their peak for flavor before flowering. That is the best stage to harvest leaves or seeds for storage. Herbs may be dried or frozen before storing. Dried herbs are three to four times stronger than fresh plants. The shelf life of many herbs is one to two years but this period is shorter when herbs are exposed to light, heat and open air.

Herbs also may be frozen. Rinse herbs in cold water and blanch in boiling, unsalted water for five seconds or until bright green. Cool quickly in ice water, package and freeze. Dill, parsley, chives and basil can be frozen without blanching. For chives, snip the stems into one-fourth inch pieces, place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, and place in the freezer. Put the chives into a bag when frozen, and use by the spoonful as needed. Other herbs can be frozen in a similar way.

To dry herbs, bundle six-to-12 stems (depending on thickness). Remove any foliage near the base of the stems. Secure with an elastic band (this is preferable to string as the elastic contracts with the stem as it dries). Hang the bundle away from sunlight in a cool location. For individual leaves, place them on a screen or rack and turn frequently.

Dehydrators can also be used to dry herbs. Follow the directions on your appliance and check frequently. Using a cool oven with the door open (which wastes energy) or a microwave (which can quickly over-dry herbs) are the least satisfactory ways to dry herbs.

Want to learn more? Come to the Herb class at 5 p.m. Thursday, April at the LaRue County Extension office, 807 Old Elizabethtown Road, Hodgenville. Class is sponsored by the County Homemaker organization and is open to everyone, no registration required.