It seems so cold and dreary outside these days with less sunlight and colder temperatures. A good way to keep your green thumb working, and to help keep you away from the winter blues, is to grow herbs indoors. This is a great way to keep fresh herbs for culinary usage throughout the winter and into next spring. Herbs that are typically grown indoors include thyme, sage, and oregano. There are many additional choices for indoor grown herbs to have all winter long.
Indoor grown herbs need to be placed in the sunniest windowsill in your home. They need at least 10 hours of light each day to get their maximum growth. Supplemental light may be necessary to get the full amount of light they need each day, this can be controlled with a timer to make sure that it is turned on and off equally each day. This supplemental light should only be 8-10 inches from the plants themselves to get the maximum light intensity for the plants. Along with the amount of light the plants receive, you should make sure that your herbs are not placed near a drafty location in your home.
Herbs like to be in well-drained soil. You can use potting soil or a soilless mixture, which is actually a growing media that doesn’t contain any soil. soilless mixes typically contain perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss. These three components can be bought separately and mixed by you or they can be bought as a pre-mix growing media. Because herbs like well-drained soil, you need to make sure that you do not overwater your plants or allow them to sit in water. There should be drainage holes in the bottom of the pot or tray that they are planted in. Place the pot in a saucer or some type of dish to catch the extra water, but never leave the plants sitting in a saucer of water. Allow the plants to dry out some between each watering but do not let them get too dry.
Harvesting these wonderful fresh herbs throughout the winter is the best part of growing herbs indoors throughout the winter months. The harvest is quite easy, just snip off stems before they bloom to get the best flavor. The plant will continue to regenerate new growth throughout the entire winter. Remember, fresh herbs are different than dried herbs when used in cooking. Generally, you should use three times the amount of fresh herbs than you would with dried herbs to get a similar taste. The information for this article came from an article by Sarah Browning, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Educator in Lancaster County, on growing herbs, specifically thyme, sage, and oregano.
Herbs are very easy preserve for use later in the year, either dry them or freeze them. The easiest way to dry herbs is to tie them up in bunches, place a paper bag over the herbs, with holes for airflow cut in them, and hang them upside down to dry. You can also dry them on a tray, or with heat such as with a dehydrator or an oven. You can also freeze herbs by placing coarsely chopped herbs into an ice cube tray with water and freezing them. After they are frozen, you can take the ice cubes out and store them in a plastic bag to use as needed.
For recipes and other instruction on “Cooking with Fresh Herbs” visit the food.unl.edu website, at: http://food.unl.edu/fnh/fresh-herbs