Monday, November 15, 2010

Garden update...

Harvest day!

I know what you are thinking: daaaaaaaaannnnnng guuurl!

The coriander grows insanely fast, followed by the lemon thyme, the parsley and the basil. The rosemary is lagging way behind, it honestly grows a bit too slow.

My herbs are alive! All of them in fact! they are alive AND delicious, to the point that the pests love them too!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was freaking out in my last garden post. I spoke to some garden avid friends and also went to my local nursery to discuss the matter of pests. The inevitable truth of the matter is, if you have delicious leaves growing outdoors, somebody is going to want to eat them. I just need to be on top of my garden to control the spreading of pests so I get to eat the herbs before they do!

Each herb has a different loving critter. White flies love my coriander and basil, aphids (the tiny green ones I spoke of before) are fans of the parsley, there are teeny little light brown worms (unidentified as of yet) who feast on the lemon thyme and fortunately the rosemary hasn't had any pests so far.

I am now using 2 products on the garden: the first is the extract of the pyrenthrum daisy, in spray form, which has been used as a pesticide for centuries. This controls all of my present pests and it works quite well, they start dropping dead and becoming compost within 10 minutes of spraying. The extract of the daisy is not meant for human consumption, and the manufacturer recommends not to harvest the day after spraying. Therefore I usually spray immediately *after* harvesting (about once a week). Alternatively you can also plant the pyrenthrum plant around and in between your plants and this will keep pests off, but the nursery didn't have those seeds, just the spray.

The second product I am successfully using is an eco-fungicide whose active ingredient is potassium bicarbonate. This is to treat and prevent powdery mildew and other forms of fungus (which you may not readily see on the ground, but can live attached to the roots or cause discoloration of the leaves). The fungicide comes in powder form and I dissolve about a teaspoon in 1 litre of water and spray it once a week (on a dry day). The fungus sometimes originates from overwatering, too much humidity and not enough air flow. I always let the ground dry completely before watering my plants again, but if your plants are outdoors and potted like mine, you simply cannot protect them from rain.

{harvesting your herbs}

Using some sturdy scissors cut the coriander and parsley at the base of the stem. More stems will grow from the ground up. The thyme and rosemary should be cut at the base of that branch, as more leaves/branches will branch off at random places. The basil grows strikingly like a binary tree, from each leaf two more will grow. Thus it is best to cut it at the base of the leave.

{storing and eating}

I soak my herbs in water for at least 20 minutes to make sure all uninvited guests will drown. Then I carefully inspect each leave and stem and in batches give them a couple of spins and rinses using a salad spinner.

The best way to store herbs in the fridge is wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a ziploc bag or tupperware. I read that you can freeze them for up to 3 months as well, and if you would like to dry them, it is best to do that right before the plants are blooming, when they are at their richest in delicious natural oils. I think I will try to do that when the time comes.

This post was very wordy and less picturesque, but I hope it was at least interesting and useful to someone out there...

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