Saturday, May 30, 2015

Penny pinching #2

Growing your own flavour (ie herbs)

For those who missed last week, I’m giving a couple of tips on how to be a penny pincher.  If you can save yourself $5 a week, then that’s $5 you can spend on another book.  OMG – bliss!

So this week I want to talk about herbs.

(By the way, in Australia, we pronounce this word with a strong H sound, like “horse” or “hope”.  We laugh when we hear Americans talk about their ‘erbs.)

My husband is often heard to say, “It’s only a dollar.  What does it matter?”  See, if this happens five times a day for him, and five times a day for me – that’s ten dollars a day.  $3,650 a year.  So turning off that light as you leave the room, or growing your own spring onions (see last week’s blog) can add up dramatically.

So what herbs work, and what herbs don’t?  What herbs are useful, and what herbs aren’t?  Personal choice, my dear, personal choice.  For me I grow:
Lemon Grass
Garlic Chives

They give me the best flavours for my cooking.  So have a look at what you cook when making your selection of herbs to grow.  I find lemon grass gives a very strong flavour to my cooking, and the kids complain, so I usually only use this herb to make tea (which is actually an infusion, not a tea). Parsley is used in a lot of my cooking, but the basil I only use for pesto.  It’s all personal choice.

Today I spent 30 minutes collecting coriander seeds from dried stalks of my previous coriander plant.  I've replanted some of the seeds, but the rest I'm going to put in small bags and give to the church to sell for 50c per bag at their next fete.  I'm stretching the penny pinching around.  

Now, this is the part that is the penny pinching: growing herbs in your garden will mean you don’t have to buy dried herbs at the shop.  In fact, you probably won’t need to buy ANY flavours.

Garlic chives give me the taste of garlic, so I don’t buy garlic anymore.  It looks like baby spring
onions and you just cut them off at the base of the plant, then chop it up and sprinkle over or in whatever you want.

Parsley is pretty universal for flavour, but also does great in juices if you make your own carrot juice, kale juice or similar.

Mint is wonderful for salad flavouring, but also good to put in boiling water for an infusion to help an upset tummy.

Fresh oregano and thyme are wonderful additions to stew or pasta sauce.  Crush the leaves up and put them on your homemade pizza.

Basil provides me with pesto, so I don’t have to buy that either.  I use a whizz-stick and an add-on to make my pesto. 

But the best thing about herbs, is that you “cut and go.”  With a vegetable like a potato, you need to dig it up in order to use it.  You’ve destroyed the plant.  With herbs, you cut off what you need, and leave the rest of the plant. 

Herbs can be used fresh or dried.  And because the herb is a plant, it should survive the whole year so you have fresh always.

And when the plant gets too big, I cut it back and dry the herbs in my dehydrator.  Sure, you can hang them up to dry them – but I find this messy and I often lose my product.  Instead I place branches of rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley in the dehydrator and within a day or two, I have dried herbs.  They can be sprinkled in stews, soups, roasts, stir-fries, anything.  And they keep for years in an air-tight container. 

Why not consider drying huge amounts of your rosemary bush and offering them as gifts?  Put them in a decorative jar and you have a thoughtful and useful present.

Don’t be afraid to try it.  Do you know those expensive flavour sachets you get for $3 in the shop – they’re just herbs, salt and sometimes a bit of powdered stock.  Don’t buy it – make it yourself.

Herbs are often so, so easy to obtain too.  Don’t waste your money going and buying at the local plant nursery.  My last resort is to check out school fetes and church sales – green fingers often sell things there.  But if you find someone with a herb plant, ask them for some.

Rosemary will grow from cuttings.  Clip off about three inches of the top of a nice branch with new growth on it, and stick it in some soil.

You will find that oregano and mint sends out branches that grow roots if they touch the ground.  Have a look around the outside of your friend’s plant, cut the rooted branch from the main plant, and dig up your new plant.

Lemongrass can easily be propagated by pulling off a stalk of the main plant, and simply popping it in soil.

Chives clump together.  Find a friend with chives and dig out some of the chives around the outside.

AND IF YOUR WONDERFUL NEW PLANT goes to seed??  Don’t despair.  Let it seed.  Nurture it.  Sometimes they grow back after seeding – and sometimes the most wonderful thing happens.  Have a look around a month later – and you will find babies… 

How to contact Renae:
Twitter:  @renaekkaye
Instagram:  renaekayeauthor

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