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How To Dry Herbs In The Oven.

My little herb garden has done really well this year. Especially the chocolate mint. . . . that stuff is practically trying to take over the whole bed. 

In fact, I’ve been using it as the background for a lot of product photos lately. . . . 

Herb Garden as background

I love using fresh herbs in soap making and DIY beauty treatments (like the rosemary ACV hair rinse here) and of course cooking, but sometimes you have to turn to dried herbs. And while, we haven’t had any really cold weather, yet, and the herb garden is still going strong for now, those frigid temps are on the way. But before it gets here, I wanted to dry some of the herbs.

Now, there are a few different ways to dry herbs. . . . there’s drying by bundling the herbs and letting them air dry over several days, oven drying them, and even microwaving. If you live in humid areas (like I do – even in the Fall, it’s still humid). then air drying is going to take a lot longer. So, for me, that means oven drying the herbs. 

How to

First, some tips that I have quickly learned:

Pick the herbs in the morning when the essential oils and flavors are stronger. 

If they need it, rinse them immediately. 

For smaller leafed herbs, wait until after they’re dry to pick them off the stems. It’s much easier and quicker.

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Preheat the oven to a very low temperature setting (under 200F degrees).

Spread the herbs out on a cookie sheet, making sure they’re not touching each other as it’ll take longer to dry if they are.

Place in the oven, leaving the door cracked. Leaving the door cracked ensures that they dry instead of bake. 

After about 20 to 30 minutes, check the herbs. When they’re through drying, the leaves will crumble in your fingers. If they need longer to dry, leave them and recheck them every 10 minutes. 

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I dried my basil and chocolate mint with the oven at 180F degrees, and it took about 30 – 50 minutes in all for each batch. 

Store whole or ground in a jar. 

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Feeling Peppery.

If there’s one thing that we won’t be running out of anytime soon around here. . . it’s peppers. IMG_4780Peppers.

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Peppers.

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And more peppers. 

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Almost too many to know what to do with. I’m all peppered out. You wouldn’t want any, would you? 

But they’re not just any normal peppers. Nope, they’re HOT. With all letters capitalized kind of hot. Definitely hotter than last year’s crop. 

So, what did I do differently to make the peppers so hot this year? Well, after a little Googling, I’ve figured it out. 

To maximize heat, peppers need these things:

Stress.

You wouldn’t think it, but peppers thrive on stress. Or, I should say, their heat level thrives on it. You probably know that capsaicin is the chemical compound responsible for heat in peppers, but what you may not know is that it is also a natural defense mechanism that evolved over time to give peppers protection against certain fungi. The production of capsaicin increases when plants are stressed. Such as, when they’re not getting quite enough water.

I’ll admit, this summer has been busier than usual and has involved a lot of on the road travel, and I’ve been a little lax in the watering department. 

Sun.

Peppers like sun. Seriously, hot, full sun exposure. Alabama has no shortage of heat during the warmer months (well, actually, all year long), but this year has been one of the hottest summers we’ve had with records being broken and set more than once. And my peppers are planted in full, direct sun exposure.

Time.

When jalapeno peppers are ripe, they’re not actually green. They’re red.

I totally didn’t know that. They’re also hotter. 

Apparently, waiting to pick peppers until they’ve ripened a little longer, to at least a darker green if you don’t want red jalapenos, will result in them being much hotter.

You can also look for little striations to form on the peppers. As they grow and age, peppers develop light colored lines in the outerskin. You might be able to see some of the lines below.

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Blinking.

Sometimes, it seems like if you blink around here, it’s instantly a new season. 

Winter has come and gone. Trees are no longer bare and are bursting with life.

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Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing.

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Peach trees are weeping. Did you know there are weeping peach trees? I sure didn’t. 

IMG_3640The blueberry plants are blossoming. 

I went a little blueberry mad last year and added three more. That means I now have a total of six blueberry plants. Count ’em, six!

In other words, one day I’m going to have blueberries coming out of my ears. I foresee a lot of blueberry desserts in this girl’s future. 

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The Monster Papaya Revisited.

Remember The Monster Papaya from a couple of months ago?

The Monster Papaya Revisited 

It is truly monster-ish now.  Knowing virtually nothing about papayas trees, I did a little Google consultation. 

And according to ye olde Google, papayas can be harvested once 20 – 33% of the fruit’s skin has turned yellow. For the best taste, they should be 80% yellow. 

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Yeah. Those are definitely still very much green.