Harvesting Herbs For Cooking and Crafting

A great part of the joy of growing your own herbs is in the harvesting. I love to harvest my flowers and herbs this time of year for use in cooking and crafting. You planted herbs which would produce leaves, flowers, seeds and roots for use during the winter. Now is the time that you will see the fruits of your labor. The great bulk of your harvest will be leaves-parsley and chervil, sage, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon balm, the savories, tarragon, rosemary and perhaps spearmint.

Of course, you have been using your herbs all summer long. You snipped bits of chives and parsley to scatter over eggs and creamed dishes or to spice up low-calorie diets. You gathered those which took your fancy as you wandered about the garden with the salad bowl in mind, or perhaps tucked a sprig into a favorite book or into your purse for fragrance.Now it’s harvest time, the time when the bulk of your plants must be gathered for your pleasure and used through the winter. Now you can go into the garden and gather loads of fragrance and fun.

Harvest time is a time of planning too. You must decide which plants to bring into the house, which to dry, which to make into gifts. You will want to mark those plants which you wish to pot for the winter, even though it is not necessary to dig them until just before frost. When making this decision, keep in mind that you will want:

A variety of culinary herbs for the kitchen window sill.
A few larger plants to provide sprays for bouquets or iced drinks, to toss into your bath, and for other favorite uses.
Several small compact plants to pot for gifts.
Pots of plants to place in different rooms throughout your own house.
Just when is harvest time? The time for harvesting is decided, not by the time of year, but by the readiness of the herbs. Most herbs are ready to harvest just as the buds are opening into full blossom. This is when the plants contain the most volatile oils and therefore the greatest fragrance and flavor. Fortunately for you, not all varieties will be ready at the same time. But if you should discover that several are just right on the same sunny morning, take a separate box, basket or tray for each herb and label it. Otherwise, unless you are more of an expert than most of us, you may have trouble sorting the herbs after they are dry.
It is best to gather herbs in the early morning of a warm, bright day when the dew has evaporated, but before the sun is high and hot. This is the most pleasant time for being in the garden, and it is a fragrant, relaxing way in which to begin your busy day.

It is important, too, to harvest as early as possible in the season so that the plants will come up again vigorously before the growing season is over. For me, this first harvesting is a difficult decision. I wander about the garden, enjoying the beauty of the plants, their delicious fragrance and lush growth. And each year, in spite of previous years’ experience to the contrary, I think, “What if they do not come back again? Will I ruin this lovely garden?”

But don’t you believe it! You are more likely to destroy by holding back than by cutting! If you wait to harvest perennial herbs late in the season, you will lose not only their flavor but probably the whole plants as well. Do cut early enough to assure regrowth. Otherwise, your plants may die during the winter. Do not cut annuals too close to the ground. Leave enough foliage so that the plants will continue to grow. You may hope for another harvest this season, at which time you can take the whole plant. Cut perennials about two-thirds of the length of the stalks and side branches, less if the stalks are stiff and woody.

You may pick sage, marjoram and basil at any time. The new growth of sage is always flavorful, and so is that of marjoram at any time before the young plants blossom. Basil scarcely has an off-season even though, like other herbs, it is at its best just at blooming time.

If for some reason you do not manage to harvest all you want of a particular herb when it is ready, gather some later on even though its peak cutting season has passed. Once I made a final bottle of basil vinegar in a greedy rush when the weather forecaster said, “Look for a freeze tonight.” The resulting product could barely be distinguished from that made earlier.

If the herbs you harvest are to be dried, it is important to gather them when the oils are at their best. If you do decide to dry some of the last-minute crops, it might be well to label your jars so that you will know which are prime and which are seconds. Of course, you will also keep some of your favorite herbs growing in the house throughout the winter, and those you will use fresh.
As soon as you have carried your herb crop indoors, quickly rinse off the dirt from the lower leaves and shake off all excess moisture. Then spread the herbs on either window screens laid across two chairs or on some stretched cheesecloth.

Remove any yellowed, decayed and very coarse leaves, and dry your harvest in an airy place away from direct sunlight.

When to Harvest

Harvest these herbs when they are just starting to bloom: basil, tarragon, horehound, mint, sweet marjoram, lemon balm, costmary, fennel, winter savory, sage, summer savory, lavender (also may be cut later).

Clip the tops of these at full stage of bloom: hyssop, rosemary, lavender, thyme.
You can harvest both the leaves and flowers of these four herbs, and you can also pick rosemary leaves separately.

The following herbs should be harvested in the young leafy stage: parsley, caraway leaves, chervil, lovage.

It is the flower heads of the following herbs that you will want to harvest: camomile, German camomile, and marigold. You can go ahead and cut the flower heads off and just dry them on a screen. Camomile is great for the skin and is used in herbal bath sachets along with some oatmeal (uncooked) and grated soap. Put equal amounts of each in a washrag secured with a rubber band and used as a wash cloth in the shower.

The culinary herbs that you will wish to dry include sweet basil, parsley, thyme, chervil, rosemary, spearmint, marjoram, summer savory, sage, tarragon and lemon balm. Lemon Balm cookies are easy to make with 2 tablespoons of chopped Lemon Balm added to a basic sugar cookie recipe. There are some great books on making vinegars and herbal seasonings at you local library and bookstore. With the holidays right around the corner, you may want to obtain one of these books and start crafting some gifts!

As far as the other culinary herbs in your garden are concerned, do not dry chives, but pot for winter use, put in vinegar or freeze. Dill should not be dried either, but the leaves can be frozen fresh or the seeds dried. Parsley may be potted, salted, frozen or dried. If you want to dry parsley, place it in the microwave between two paper towels for one minute intervals until dry. If you try to air dry it, it will simply turn brown and unappealing. Burnett, which is too delicate for drying, can be grown indoors in the winter.

Harvesting herbs in the fall is a fun way to bring your garden indoors for the winter. You will be rewarded with countless hours of fun for not only for you but those you bless with the gifts from your garden.

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Thai Cooking and Food on Koh Chang Island

Since the whole idea behind travelling is arguably to get away from it all and have a real change of scenery, the traveller’s mood is likely to dictate that they have more of an open mind, making them ready to try just about anything and everything which they wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do in their primary environment.

One area of exploration you could never avoid, even if you tried, is that of exotic culinary experiences — trying out new foods which are prepared traditionally, especially if your travels do indeed lead you to an exotic place, like Thailand’s Koh Chang island.

Those with particularly weak stomachs and go by the motto “If it tastes like chicken, then give me chicken” aren’t entirely at a loss though, since a lot of travel destinations have wised up to the fact that a lot of people who frequent those destinations are in fact tourists, so there will always but always be an escape to familiarity not too far off from wherever you may be based for that period.

If you are visiting the Thai island of Koh Chang, for instance, as much as you will have ample opportunity to dip your taste buds into a plethora of exotic local Thai dishes, you will have equal opportunity to get a real taste of some of the cuisines from all over the world, including Central and North America, South America and even Africa, in addition to the main offerings that are inclined towards native Asian dishes and there is also a very strong presence of European cuisine as well.

Such restaurants that offer a fair bit of familiarity include the likes of the Chill Restaurant as well as the Rock Sand Terrace Restaurant (situated on White Sand Beach).

Traditional Thai Cuisine

As far as dipping into the local Thai cuisine goes, Koh Chang offers a number of authentic Thai dishes which do very well to give the tourist area its deserved amount of exoticness.

Thai dishes are not exactly what you would call out of the ordinary and there probably won’t be any new or strange things you will be subjected to eating, since Thai food has a heavy emphasis on fish and sea food in general.

An authentic Thai culinary experience, in the form of a lunch or dinner (which are the two meals that probably encompass all the elements of Thai cooking), will take your taste buds on an adventurous journey, with emphasis placed mainly on how the food tastes as opposed to the portions, although the collective portions add up to a very filling meal, generally, so there should be no fear of leaving the dinner table hungry.

If your Thai dining experience has taken your taste buds for a ride that includes taste sensations that are sweet, sour, salty and even bitter, you have had the real Thai culinary experience as the authentic Thai chefs intentionally prepare their food to encompass serious flavours, through the addition of herbs and spices that complement dishes which are made up of the likes of crab, fish, a range of salads and a lot of different dishes to dip into.

A typical Thai dish, as enjoyed on this island, to the tune of a seafood platter of prawns and baked potatoes for example, wouldn’t be as simple as that. The Thai way of preparing such a dish would firstly have an edge by way of the prawns having been freshly-caught (some local restaurants allow you to come along for the fishing boat ride) and then the dish would typically be lightly-prepared, with the prawns cooked just right so that the authentic taste of the sea is preserved.

Along with the avoidance of loss of natural flavour due to overcooking, Koh Chang chefs love to add a little bit of their signature into the mix, characterised by something that would bring out the flavour of the prawns, in the case of the prawn-and-baked-potato dish, with a blend of herbs and spices accompanied by a number of dips and the presentation would be professionalised with an arrangement of something like a tomato and lettuce salad, presented uniquely with a locally prepared salad dressing and even more seasoning.

Be prepared to have a number of dishes placed in front of you, with the distinct possibility of getting overwhelmed by the seemingly endless choices offered all over the island of Koh Chang, at dining spots like the Smiling Buddha Restaurant, The Souk Restaurant and even the curiously named Pink Restaurant, which is more for those who are constantly on the move.

What is important to remember, when enjoying dishes like garlic stir-fried prawns, green curry chicken or yellow curry beef, is that the aim is to experience intense flavour in your food and not just have a filling dinner that you go on to forget about a couple of hours after dessert and this makes for the ultimate Koh Chang dining experience of Thai cooking and Thai food.

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