I am working on becoming more self-reliant in regard to spices and herbs. They are what really makes a dish come alive and I’d hate to have to do without them. This is a project that I’ve been working on for a few years now. First I quit using store spice mixes and found that most have a large amount of fillers in them to require you to use lots and return often and they have preservatives.
I’ve changed what spices and herbs to be more in line with what I can grow, less dependence on the store.
I began to grow an herb garden under grow lights with expanding varieties. Some stay and some I find I don’t use enough and discontinue. Some I just struggle growing but need and so are determined to figure out their secrets. I could keep basil going only for a little while and then it died. First I tried changing out the soil often and that helped. But I realized this year just how heavy a feeder they are. They need lots, and lots of fertilizer and mine love natural. Now they are healthy, happy, and flourishing.
Sage on the other hand I can barely keep alive for an extended time. They don’t like their feet wet and did better when I added peat moss to help the soil dry out faster. Now they don’t die but don’t thrive either. I need to do some more investigating and experimentation. And so it goes even in the vegetable garden too.
I am growing parsley, cutting celery, borage, and lovage outside. They came back on their own but did not thrive under neglect, oops. The lovage developed seed and under the poor conditions I did not get to make the celery seed salt I’d hope to but next year maybe. I’m working on their present location but it will no longer be fenced. So we shall see if deer like lovage. I’m hoping it will return next year. The area will not be fence so we shall see if the deer like it. Lovage is suppose to be deer resistant. I wonder if they know that. Otherwise I will grow it elsewhere.
I use mainly home grown herbs now and have enough of a dried supply to keep me going with many of them. It has taken time to see just how much is enough.
Come January I will be drying garlic and canning some for the first time. Now I’m learning to use it fresh. This is not an overnight project of learning to grow, use, and store my own herbs and spices. It is a journey of increasing independence from the store.
I dry vegetables such as beets, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers, and now I have a small bag of dried bean pods at a snapping bean stage, (they are stringy at this phase) in hopes of powdering it and adding it to soups for increased flavor. It would be another waste not want not project and the results will be in this week.
I’m going to grow some peppers this summer to resupply my chili pepper mix I ran out of. I hope to include paprika and do my own.
Of course there is bone broth. It adds so… much flavor to dishes. There is also homemade vanilla and dried citrus peel and on occasion I dry slices of the whole fruit. Sometimes we have to look outside the box if we live in an especially hot or cold region.
The latest project I will start in this area is grinding my own spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. I bought a marble mortar and pestle and I have a grater. We shall see how that goes but storing these spices in their whole state extends their life. when ground the release strong flavors which quickly fade with age, hence the addition of chemicals. Manufacturers can add salt, rice or flour mix without putting it on the label as well as flavors in chemical form that might be added flavor was lost in processing.
So I set a list of general goals:
- Remove all store spice mixes as they are heavy with fillers.
- Change our cooking to use more of what we can grow ourselves.
- Grow an herb garden in the house.
- Grow an herb garden outside to save seed.
- Use fresh herbs combined with dried to increase flavor.
- Dry my own herbs, onions, and garlic and store them properly building up a supply that meets our needs.
- Buy whole spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and grind them myself.
- Learn to use more dried vegetables in my cooking to add nutrition and flavor.
- Grow my own peppers for paprika and chili powder.
- Use bone broth in a broader range of dishes to add flavor.
- Dry citrus slices and rind for flavoring.
- Make my own vanilla.
You can see this is quite a project but the difference is amazing. I can’t help when I open a jar of dried spices to just smell and savor the aroma.