Italian Herbs & Seasonings

Italian Herbs & Seasonings

Another project of mine this year was to make sure that I was growing enough of the herbs I needed to make my own Italian Seasoning mix, and hopefully have enough dried herbs left over for gifts.  There are a few family dishes that I make that utilize a basic tomato based pasta sauce;  dishes like spaghetti, lasagne, Spanish rice, or my mock eggplant parmesan dish.  Although I prefer to use basil as the primary herb in my tomato sauce, I also sprinkle a couple teaspoons of Italian seasoning in the pot to add the other subtle flavors of oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, savory and sage.

This year I decided to plant all my Italian herbs in an area of the garden along the peonies near the brick patio.  Having an herb garden near the house is very practical, because there are many times when I need a fresh herb for a dish I’m cooking, and it’s nice to not have to go out into the far corners of my garden to find it, especially when it’s dark outside.  Instead I can just go a few yards outside my back door to pick the fresh herbs I need.   When most of the herbs are located in the same area it offers an opportunity to have fun with design too; maybe imbue the area with some garden art or interesting structures.  I’m still in the planning stages with that.  It’s also easier to stay organized with the cultivating, tending and harvesting when all the herbs are located together.    Especially when you’re a bit focused challenged like I am!

Must Have Herbs

Everyone has their own preferences and favorites when it comes to the herbs they love the most in cooking, but when it comes to Italian recipes there are some herbs that are absolutely essential to have in your cupboards.  Those herbs would be:

Oregano
Thyme
Marjoram
Sage
Savory
Basil
Rosemary

It goes without saying that garlic and onion are also essential ingredients in Italian cooking, and they can be dehydrated and added to an Italian seasoning mix too.  For my first mix I followed the easiest recipe below in Recipe One and also included a little garlic powder from the garlic I grew.  Garlic is very easily dehydrated and then ground into a fine powder using a coffee bean grinder.  Both of these recipes below are simple and traditional.

Italian Seasoning Recipes

Recipe One

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon savory

1 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon rosemary

 

Recipe Two

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried oregano

3 tablespoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a spice grinder, or put in a small bowl and crush with the back of a spoon.  Store in an airtight jar for up to 6 months.

Storing Herbs

Herbs should be stored in a cool, dark place.  My little house and kitchen doesn’t provide me with a lot of spacious cupboard space or shelving YET, so I have to make due with a little section in one of my lower kitchen cupboards.  It’s not comfortable or convenient having to stoop down to get to the herbs, but I chose this area because it’s dark and it keeps things cooler in the summer.   I keep the whole herbs in plastic containers and quart jars and then crush what I need for the immediate future and put that small portion in a little spice jar with my other spices that I use regularly.   Keeping the herb leaves whole until needed preserves the freshness and flavor.   Now that I grow my own herbs and get a fresh crop every year, I rarely keep the previous year’s herbs.  Before I had my home and garden and started to grow my own herbs, I used to save herbs and seasonings for years!  It’s hard to believe I was so oblivious to how that diminishes their quality.  Once you know better, you do better.

This year was definitely the best year yet for herb growing once I designated a specific area for them that was larger, closer to my back door, and provided me with visual appeal.  I’ll probably keep growing them here in the future.

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