It might seem like the wrong time of year to consider starting a garden, but if you’re looking at starting a herb garden, there’s not much better a time. Best of all, putting together a herb garden can give you something to do as you slow down in the lawn over the cool fall and winter months, especially if you choose to start one indoors to move outdoors at a later date.
The Best Herbs to Plant
Some plants are better than others, and you’ll be able to get more mileage out of these in dishes and drinks.
Herbs for Simple Syrups: Orange mint, thai basil, grosso lavender, Altar of Rose scented geranium.
Herbs Specifically for Gin: Lemon cucumber, golden lemon thyme, blue borage, genovese compact basil.
Other Handy Herbs: Spearmint, lemon verbena, rosemary, lemongrass, Cuban mint, cilantro.
Using and Preserving Herbs for Drinks
There are a couple methods for using and preserving herbs in your drinks.
The first, of course, is to use fresh herbs as soon as you pull them from the garden. Steeping or muddling them in the drink will help draw out oils and add taste.
The second is to steep them in small amounts of alcohol to extract the flavor for later use. This extract can then be stored for months, up to years. Instructions for creating an extract can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs.
The third is to dry those herbs, which will help them keep for a little bit while retaining their solid forms. A short trip through the oven or air-drying them will help keep them in good shape for a few months. For more concise directions, take a look here.
Wintering Your Herbs
You have a couple of options for dealing with your herbs over the winter. Many of them are not hardy enough to stand the cool weather.
The first choice, of course, is to harvest them and preserve them using the above-mentioned methods. A full harvest will require replanting the following year.
To begin with, planting them in containers that can be moved indoors at first frost is a good bet. This also allows you to move the herbs around during the season to let some of them benefit from light and shade as needed.
Using Your Herbs
This is the real reason you’re here, right? Here are some drink recipes to use your fresh herbs, dried herbs, and extracts in:
- The Drunken Botanist is a great place to start. She concentrates on using herbs that can be grown in small areas, and that are fairly hardy.
- Saveur is also a good place for vetted recipes.
- Experimentation – take your favorite traditional drinks, and add something from your garden. After all, that’s how these recipes were put together in the first place.
- Barter with your local bartender – offer to swap some fresh herbs with them to see what sort of recipes they can whip up for you. Many bartenders will love having the chance to work with fresh, local herbs.
Herb gardens can certainly be a worthwhile project for gardeners. They are relatively easy to create and maintain, hardy, and provide plenty of ingredients for cooks and bartenders alike. Consider investing in one soo – the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll have some to use.
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