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Diggers Rest, Issue #008 -- Drying herbs, Prawn and Melon Salad
September 09, 2005
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September 9, 2005 Issue #08


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In this issue:

1) Drying Herbs
2) In the garden this month
3) Recipe: Prawn and Melon Salad

Drying Herbs

Herbs can add so much to a simple meal. They're easy to grow, easy to use and now, easy to preserve for year round use.

It can be a bit of a stretch to use whole herb plants when you grow them, or even when you purchase a fresh bunch from the shops. Don't let it go to waste.

My preferred method of drying most herbs goes like this:

  • Cut the top six inches of the stalk where the tender leaves are. This should be done in the morning before the heat of the day robs the plant leaves of their essential oils. Remove any tough or old leaves.
  • Wipe any dirt off the cuttings, but don't soak the stems or leaves. Dampness will cause mould to form.
  • Gather into bunches of 6-8 stalks and put them stalk end up in a small paper bag. Secure with an elastic band or string around the top of the bag. Lots of people don't use a bag, but I prefer it. It allows the air and moisture to pass through but doesn't allow the herbs to get dusty while drying. (Nasty!)
  • Hang the bag in an airy place away from direct sunlight. This can be indoors or out, but there must be circulating air.
  • The drying will take a couple of weeks generally. When the leaves crumble easily, they're ready. Force them through a sieve into containers.
  • Store your herbs in small, air tight containers. Dark glass is best to preserve their colour.
  • Make sure you have labels ready! These herbs should then be stored in a cupboard or away from the stove. Heat and sunlight are both unkind to fragile herb colours and tastes.
  • Once they've been in jars for a couple of weeks, check them carefully for any moisture leaks or mould. They should be bone dry.
  • The key to herbs is preserving them at their best when essential oils are at their peak. In most cases, this is just before the flowers bloom. Mints should be done while in full bloom.

    How easy is that?

    In the Garden This Month

    Northern Hemisphere:

    The cooler weather is on the way, although you may not feel it yet! If you are planning fall vegetables, they should be in by now. If you think you might still get away with it, work out what your first frost date may be. Then count back the growing season, plus 2 extra weeks to allow for maturing. Check the growing times here.

    If you are in a cold climate and not planning to grow anything over winter, think about sowing a green crop like lucerne that can be worked back into the garden in spring.

    Top up your compost and have a tarp handy for those very wet days. A soaking compost won't generate the heat it needs to keep working. You'll then be ready for spring with fresh compost.

    Southern Hemisphere:

    Spring is sprung in most areas. Now is the time to prepare and fertilize the garden. Vegetables can go in now in most areas except cooler spots.

    If you are planning to fertilize, water the plants both before and after the feed. Before to quench their thirst and moisten the garden media. After to take the fertilizer to the roots of the plants.

    Cooler zones should be starting their seeds now and getting them underway. Protect them from the cooler weather by using a cold frame or horticultural fabric at night.

    Seedlings do best in the no dig garden and allow for more intensive planting. So prepare your beds, but wait for your plants to become stronger before putting them in.

    Feature Recipe: Prawn and Melon Salad

    This is the taste of summer in a bowl. For those in the north, linger over it. For those in the south, anticipate it...

    The recipe calls for prawns or shrimp. They should be fresh and put into boiling water for just a couple of minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool before peeling and de-veining. 20-30 will generously serve 4.

    20-30 fresh prawns or shrimp
    1/2 honeydew melon
    1 avocado
    1 lettuce


    1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon honey
    1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
    2 tablespoons good quality virgin olive oil
    4 spring onions finely chopped (optional)

    Prepare the seafood and allow to cool. Cut the melon into small, thin slices, then bite size. Wash and dry lettuce leaves and pull into large bite size pieces. Quarter the avocado and cut into similar size pieces to the melon.

    Combine the dressing ingredients into a jar and shake well. Combine the salad ingredients and drizzle the dressing over the top. Toss lightly and serve immediately.

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    It's a hardware store that caters for those trying to shrink their ecological 'footprint' on the earth.

    Top quality goods and they'll ship worldwide.

    Happy Gardening!

    Judy Williams

    Copyright J.L. Williams 2005

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