Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HERBS 103: Harvesting, Preserving & Overwintering Workshop Report

by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County

Although it was a crisp autumn start at this October 18 workshop, 17 attendees and 7 (yes, 7) Master Gardeners had a fun and informative (according to the evaluations) session.
At their seats attendees found peppermint cuttings that Jerry Lewis brought in.

Carol Kagan talked about air drying herbs and Trey Gelbach showed his dehydrator, putting in some herbs which he brought out near the end of the morning to demonstrate how quickly and thoroughly they dried. Barb Petrucci passed around samples of roses and other flowers she either air dried or dried with a desiccant. The difference in the colors and shapes were evident.

Barb, Jerry, Trey and Sue McMorris led the group over to the herb garden with baskets and shears where attendees were able to harvest a variety of herbs and flowers to take home. Popular take-aways were lavender and gomphrena.

Jean Schlecht and Maria Giles set out the refreshments and Maria put materials at each seat for a hands-on activity to prepare herbs to dry in the refrigerator.

When everyone returned from the gardens, refreshments were served and the hot mulled cider was popular. In addition there was cold cider, lemon-grass infused water, Apple Sage cake and Lavender Tea Biscuits (recipes below), as well as Trey's homemade dip of smoked jalapeno with homemade crostini and Sue's dill dip with chips.
Sue shared more methods of drying herbs including freezing and screen drying and reviewed the best way to preserve a variety of culinary herbs for later use.

Maria went over preserving herbs by drying in the refrigerator and had everyone folding up their thyme into neat little envelopes.

Trey, self-proclaimed "chili-head," showed off a variety of home-grown peppers, some of which were air dried and some smoked, passing these around along with some of the chili powders he made from them. Here he pulled some of the herbs from the dehydrator to show how fast they dried.

Carol reviewed the three methods to overwinter herbs: Protect outdoor perennials, bring plants inside, and create an indoor garden from seed, plant division or rooting cuttings. She also demonstrated pruning a winter savory (or perhaps a thyme plant, as there was a bit of pleasant dissent among the Master Gardeners as to which it was) and tips for rooting.

Along the way our students asked many good questions and among the seven Master Gardeners answers were found and sometimes explanations and cautions mentioned. Some of the participants attended all three of this year's Herb Series and received "Herb Enthusiast" certificates.

The session ended as Jerry shared some of his tips, especially about seed saving, and Jean Schlecht distributed the parsley and honey-melon sage she brought to share.

Honey melon sage (Salvia)
As per request, here are the two recipes for refreshments served at the workshop.

Lavender Tea Biscuits (Makes 6 doz. little 1” biscuits)
½ C. softened butter (1 stick)
½ C. sugar
1 egg
1 C. self-rising flour
1  ½ Tbsps. lavender buds
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Cream the butter, sugar and egg. Add flour and lavender buds and mix well. Wrap and roll the mixture into 1" tubes (about 4 or 5 tubes) and refrigerate for 1 hour. *
Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray. Spoon marble-size (small) pieces of dough into each cup. Gently press with a wooden pestle dipped into water or sugar or use the back of a small spoon.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove while warm.

* Alternately you can freeze the tubes of mixture to use later. Cut 1/4" or smaller slices from the tube and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Apple Sage Cake (9”x13” pan)

3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ C. sugar
¾ C. vegetable oil
1/ ½ C. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 C. Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded (about 3 apples)
½ C. fresh sage leaves, minced fine
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Butter a 9”x13” baking pan and line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Add in flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined. Stir in apples and sage and mix well.
Pour into baking pan, releasing the air bubbles. Bake approximately 30 minutes, until the cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool and serve as a cake or cut into small bites.

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