Easy Herb Drying Rack

DIY Herb Drying Rack

Preserve the bounty from your herb garden by drying!One of the best and easiest ways to dry herbs from your garden is on a drying rack. Our rack not only gets the job of drying herbs done, it looks great in your kitchen while doing it!  If you don’t have these items at home, you can find them at grocery, large retailers, and craft stores.

Supplies

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Instructions for the Rack

  1. Remove glass and backing from picture frame.
  2. Screw hooks into interior of picture frame. Be sure to allow adequate space between rows for herb bundles.
  3. Tie twine to hooks.

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Instructions for Drying Herbs

  1. Harvest herbs in the morning after dew has dried, when flavor is at its peak.
  2. Bundle small bunches of herbs together with string.

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  1. Hang bundles on rack upside down (a paper bag may be placed over the bundle to protect from dust).
  2. Allow herbs to dry in a cool, dry location, preferably indoors, and out of direct sunlight. Essential oils can degrade in temperatures over 86°F.
  3. Allow herbs to dry completley (they should crumble easily in your fingers). Drying time may be a few days to a few weeks, depending on the variety and moisture content.
  4. Use within a month or strip the foliage from the stems and store in an airtight container in a dark area away from heat.

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We’d love to see how creative you get with your herb drying rack! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Fresh Dried Garden Tomatoes in Olive Oil

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Nothing says summer like fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes from the garden! As many of us start our tomato seeds, we can also start thinking about the endless ways to enjoy these garden gems. One of our favorites is drying, for a sweet and tangy burst of tomato flavor that enlivens your favorite dishes. Some excellent varieties to consider for drying are Principe Borghese, San Marzano, Speckled Roman, Italian Roma, and Supremo. Any and all cherry and grape tomatoes will also make excellent dried morsels!

Ingredients

  • Fresh-harvested paste, roma or cherry tomatoes (as many as your oven racks or dehydrator can fit after tomatoes are halved)
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  1. Slice all tomatoes in half, and gently remove seeds. IMG_3228
  2. Place halved tomatoes in the oven on a sheet pan or on dehydrator racks with the cut side facing up. IMG_3230
  3. Lightly salt each slice
  4. Set dehydrator to 150°F (10 to 12 hours), or oven to 250°F (4 to 6 hours).  Dehydrating time will depend greatly on the size of your tomato slices.  Dried tomato slices should be crisp but still pliable.
  5. Using tongs, quickly dip tomato slices into red wine vinegar.
  6. Layer tomato slices into clean canning jars, leaving about ½” of space in each.
  7. Fill jars with olive oil, completely covering all tomatoes. IMG_3264
  8. Store tomatoes in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Use tomatoes and oil in salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, or eat them straight from the jar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Award Goes To…

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‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard in Judy’s Garden

For me, gardening is a labor of love. I make a thoughtful plan every year and try different tricks (like my grandpa “Pop’s” advice to soak beet and morning glory seeds), but even after all that, sometimes I get a less-than-desired result. It’s been one of my missions to share my passion for gardening, helping home gardeners be successful no matter what level of gardener they imagine themselves to be. That’s why offering varieties that are proven performers is a must! All-America Selections (AAS) winners and other Botanical Interests-tested, reliable varieties are essential to ensuring our customers have the best choices for home gardening.

In 1932, W. Ray Hastings, the Southern Seedsmen’s Association of Atlanta’s president, suggested that a network of trial gardens be grown and evaluated by skilled, unbiased judges in different U.S. climates. With this evaluation process, gardeners could truly know if a new cultivar was actually improved and how it might perform in their area. Industry leaders must have thought that was a great idea because from this, AAS was born, and began announcing winning varieties the very next year.

The AAS objectively trials and chooses reliable, high-performance winners. They judge varieties on yield, novelty, earliness to bloom or harvest, pest and disease tolerance, and overall performance. In more recent years, they have added that varieties need to have at least two improved qualities and cannot be genetically engineered (commonly referred to as GMO). AAS is still the only national, non-profit agency evaluating plant varieties, and we are so grateful for their work!

At Botanical Interests, we strive to inspire and educate our fellow gardeners, supplying varieties you can trust because we value your trust! Just in case your Pops didn’t give you all the tips you need, we research sowing and growing tips for easy-to-follow instructions inside each seed packet, so you can simply get growing! 

Decoupaged Garden Journal

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It’s so helpful to keep a record of your garden’s life so that next year you can remember the little tricks that worked so well, and avoid some that didn’t. Garden journaling can be as simple as writing about your garden daydreams and taking pictures, or as thorough as recording measurements and keeping notes about growth.

Decorating your garden journal can be a fun, family activity that will beautify and personalize it. We’re decorating ours with seed packets, and you can too by following these steps:

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Garden Journal (Paper cover works best)
  • Seed packets
  • Glue stick or rubber cement
  • Mod Podge
  • Small paint brush
  • Scissors

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  1. Cut the front off of the seed packet.

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  1. Attach each packet front to journal cover with adhesive.

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  1. Continue attaching packets to cover, overlapping slightly and wrapping the edges of the packets around the cover.

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  1. Using a paint brush, apply a liberal coat of Mod Podge to the entire surface of the journal. You can add multiple coats for additional shine if desired. Wait 15 minutes between coats.

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  1. Allow to dry thoroughly and keep out of direct sunlight.

Get tips for garden journaling and free printables on our website at: https://www.botanicalinterests.com/articles/index/category:secrets-to-success

We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Baked Cauliflower Tots

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What are cauliflower tots? The answer to your tater-tot yearnings without all the fat, carbs and starch! So good for you, simple to prepare, and a great way to sneak more vegetables onto your kids’ plates.

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of steamed cauliflower
2 eggs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Mash steamed cauliflower and mix in all other ingredients.
  • Form into tots and place on greased cookie sheet.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned.

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Serve with your favorite condiment (chipotle mayonnaise shown in picture).

The Value of Gardening from Seed

garden with seedsThere is nothing like harvesting supper right from the garden. One of my favorite memories is of one of my daughters’ sleepovers. I handed out some old wooden bowls to the girls and told them to go get something from the garden for dinner. They were so surprised to get food right from the back yard! The fresh flavor and high-nutrient value of just-harvested food cannot be denied, but there is also something so special about eating something that minutes before, was growing in our garden, having been tended with loving kindness, and is free of pesticides and GMOs. Seeing those young ladies use the same bowls I harvested in as a child really brought it all full circle, and that they wanted to repeat the tradition every time after, made my heart soar!

So for me, the real value in growing from seed isn’t just “dollars and cents”—it is in the quality of my food, the joy of fresh air and productive exercise, and even a bit of a spiritual connection to the earth, definitely a kind of therapy. 

Costs less. Growing from seed costs exponentially less than purchasing plants and produce. For example, a 4″ tomato plant can run you $4, while a plant sown from seed costs 35 cents or less on average. A bunch of colorful, organic carrots is typically priced around $4, while a packet of the same organic carrot seeds is about $2.99, and typically results in about 160 carrots, even after thinning!

Diverse varieties. Don’t limit your bouquets and cuisine to the mainstream! We frequently hear from new gardeners that they never even knew they liked tomatoes until they grew a variety bred for flavor, and not shelf life. Botanical Interests offers over 600 proven varieties so you can sow and grow exactly what you are looking for. 

Organic garden. The choice of organic food and goods is a lifestyle path that many have adopted. Whether you want to support organically-grown food for health concerns, reasons of environmental stewardship, or aiding pollinators, growing your own food and flowers using organic methods ensures you know exactly what goes onto and into your plants, where your food came from, how fresh and nutritious it is, and green; you simply cannot get more local! When goodness and love go in, goodness and love come out in the harvest.

Size matters. While buying big, beautiful, ready-to-transplant plants gives us instant gratification, studies show there is an ideal amount of time from germination to transplant, so when roots overgrow their little “cells” it causes stress on the plants, leading to lower yields, bolting (premature flowering), and bitter flavors. Bigger isn’t always better!  Starting from seed allows you to choose the ideal transplanting time frame for your area, which is based on your average last spring frost date. Also, ornamental plants (especially tall varieties) grown in small cell packs may have been sprayed with growth inhibitors that result in cute, stout plants, unnaturally flowering in tiny cell packs. While the look draws you in, that inhibitor lasts, meaning plants won’t be as big and beautiful in the landscape as those grown from seed.

No root disturbance. Nature direct-sows and so should we, in many cases. Many varieties perform best when direct-sown. Plants sown in place experience less stress, and because of that, mature more quickly. This is especially true of quick-to-mature crops like mesclun and cilantro, or  root crops, sunflowers, and those in the Cucurbit (cucumbers, squash) and bean and pea families to name a few.

Growing from seed is a skill anyone can learn that gives back “in spades”; the pinnacle of freshness, pride in the harvest and beauty, and natural therapy, not to mention cost savings,  plus, you get food and flowers!

 

 

 

 

Caramelized Red Onions

Caramelized red onions

Red onions have a high sugar content already, so when you slow cook them with honey and apple cider vinegar, they get even sweeter! Make this versatile garnish to enjoy on cheese and crackers, in a grilled cheese sandwich, atop burgers, or over roasted chicken.

 INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter 
3 thinly sliced red onions (we used our new ‘Cabernet’ onion)
3 minced garlic cloves
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
fresh thyme leaves from 3-4 sprigs
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat butter and olive oil over medium to low heat. Add onions and cook for 20 minutes until translucent, stirring regularly so as not to brown the onions.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, and stir to incorporate.
  3. Cook down another 20 minutes until sauce thickens, and onions are dark.

Makes about 1 cup of caramelized onions.

Red Onion cabernet Botanical Interests

Giving Back All Year

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Donation thank-you card from Lower Columbia School Gardens in Washington.

This time of year reminds us of what we are continually grateful for—our customers! We are always looking for ways to give back to the community to show our gratitude, not just at this time of year, but all year long. A few years ago, we began cultivating relationships with local schools and community outreach programs that may be interested in donations of seed packets for their gardens. The recipients were delighted, and soon the word spread, growing the program organically. 

As our company expanded, so did the amount of available seed without a home. Thus began our nation-wide seed donation program. We have been happy to provide seed for non-profits all over the U.S. that promote the joy of seed gardening—not only school gardens and community outreach gardens, but also 4H clubs, master gardener conferences, university sustainability centers, Earth Day urban garden projects, correctional-facility gardens, foster care gardens, and many more! We also donate seed-starting guides to schools, master gardener programs, and other educational programs.

It is truly inspiring to hear the wonderful feedback from those who have harvested from our donated seed. We love getting photos of 6-year-olds in the school garden who have just pulled their first carrot from the earth, or baskets full of home-grown veggies at the community outreach garden. One thing that especially touched our hearts this year was a heart-felt ‘thank-you’ from a correctional-facility garden.

So far this year, Botanical Interests has donated almost 50,000 seed packets! We love our donation program because it’s a great way for us to give, to educate, and to inspire, growing the gardener community!

We would like to thank everyone who has accepted our seed, and taken the time and effort to share their experiences, showing others just what pleasures come from planting a garden.

Decorated Gourds

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Curing gourds for craft purposes is easy. Some gardeners have found success with curing gourds by just leaving them on the vines through winter, but results can be variable. To pick your gourds for drying, as soon as the vines are dead and the gourds’ skin has begun to turn an ivory color, cut them from the vine, leaving 2”–3” of stem attached to the fruit. Don’t try to save any gourds that have cracked or broken skin, since they will eventually rot. Keep gourds in a cool, well-ventilated place. Bring indoors as a last resort, as curing gourds often develop a strong smell. Clean off any soil from the surface, and wipe the gourds with a mild bleach solution (1 oz. bleach to 2 quarts water). Store them on a wire mesh, not touching each other, out of direct sunlight. It can take up to 6 months to completely dry inside. When gourds are finished drying, they will feel much lighter, the seeds will rattle around inside, and the outer skin will peel away to reveal a brown or tan shell.

Once cured, hard-shelled gourds have a thin, hard, waterproof shell, which is treated just like wood (carved, cut, and/or painted). They grow in many sizes and shapes and thus have endless uses and last indefinitely.

For our project, we chose the spinning gourd, since it is the perfect size for a tree ornament.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cured spinning gourds
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Very fine drill or burr
  • Wood burner
  • Twine
  • Scissors
  • Face maskdecorated_gourd_1
  1. Use the sandpaper to remove blemishes and areas of discoloration.
  2. Use the drill or burr to pierce a hole in the stem of the gourd. This is a delicate area of the gourd so you need to be sure to use something sharp. Do this before decorating, as it is possible to crack the gourd during this process.
  3. Heat up your wood burner according to instructions. Put on your face mask, and start burning patterns and shapes into your gourd. You may find it useful to draw shapes with a pencil onto your gourd prior to burning.
  4. If you decide to paint your gourd, be sure to do so after burning, as burning paint could produce harmful fumes and dust.
  5. Tie a piece of twine through the hole in your gourd and display.

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We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

10 Essential Fall Garden Tasks

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  1. Compost disease-free or frost-killed annual plant material, or work it into the garden soil to decompose before spring. Simply cut disease-free plants off at the ground, leaving the soil intact. The root material will decompose and feed the soil. Diseased plant material should be removed from garden altogether and disposed of, preventing disease from re-entering the garden as compost or mulch. Clear out any other garden debris, too, eliminating pest habitat.
  2. Weed. Weeds are a haven for certain diseases to survive the winter, later spreading to your spring garden through soil, contact, or pests.
  3. Add fresh or aged, weed-free compost or manures to the fall garden soil so they have time to mellow before spring planting, feeding beneficial soil microorganisms over winter.
  4. Mulch fallen leaves with a mower (bagger on) or a leaf sucker, so they break down more quickly. Incorporate mulched leaves into beds or compost. Leaves increase organic matter, which helps soil absorb and hold water, as well as feed soil organisms. Save some mowed leaves for applying a 3″–4″ mulch to any overwintering plants like carrots, garlic, or perennials you may have in the garden (or save it for next year). Mulching bare winter beds can also help protect beds from wind erosion and keep cool weather weeds from germinating during winter. In addition to stifling weed germination, mulch reduces evaporation, saving water and keeping roots moist, and temperatures consistent.
  5. Cut back perennials. If you live in a wet winter climate, cutting back in fall can help plants from staying too wet and rotting. Because I live in a dry climate, I leave perennials standing because the stems gather leaves and snow, which keeps roots moist, and the seed heads draw birds to my yard.
  6. Clean tools. Remove any soil left on tools with a stiff, steel-bristle brush. Remove rust by scrubbing your tools with steel wool until the signs of rust are gone. Then rub the metal and wood with mineral oil, and store in a dry area.
  7. Make notes. As gardeners, we’re already thinking about what to do differently next year. For example, my oldest child ate cherry tomatoes faster than I could harvest; add one more plant! In your notes, record where vegetable crops were so you can rotate properly, not growing the same family in that bed but once in three years. Proper rotation reduces disease and pests.
  8. Soil test. Fall is a great time to do a soil test. For around $20–$30, a soil test will tell you what macro- and micronutrients your soil needs, how close you are to the ideal 5– 6% organic matter, pH, and other information that can help you get your garden in prime form next spring. Look to your local county Cooperative Extension Service, which often performs soil tests, or can advise you on a local place to submit your test.
  9. Store seeds in a cool, dry area. This is a good time to take inventory, creating a reorder for next year. Also, any liquid garden fertilizers and organic pesticides should be stored in an indoor area that won’t freeze, preserving the quality of these items.
  10. Request a Botanical Interests catalog!

Tidying up the garden is so satisfying, and also appreciated next spring. Fall garden, get ready for a sprucing up—here I come!