Growing Your Own Seasonings

I have always thought that self-sufficiency is extremely important. Even more than that – it’s the most important thing you can do especially if you are one who likes to prepare for emergencies or in today’s world, eventualities.

On our homestead, we have been able to replace all store bought seasonings for cooking with what we grow ourselves on our gardens. This has always been my goal and I have had to do some creative adjustments to recipes to accomplish what we have. Even so, it is very rewarding to have grown and saved as much of what flavours our food as possible so far. Sometimes we can substitute and other times we do without what is called for in the recipe. Either way, it has been working well in flavouring the foods we eat.

Below are the ways I procure our culinary seasonings.

Seeds

Some herbs or seasonings are made by crushing seeds. The main one we use is Coriander (Cilantro). Also useful are dill seed, fennel and caraway. The latter two I have not always had success growing here in our climate, but dill and coriander always work out. I often use coriander to flavour cookies. The crushed seed gives a lemony flavour to sugar and shortbread cookies. You definitely don’t need lemon peel if you have coriander seed.

Drying

This is the way I save most of our seasonings. This year I have added Dill to the drying rack. Drying is easier than freezing in that there is less work and fewer containers needed. Drying does alter that taste for some thing a bit but not enough to prevent me from using it as a way to preserve food. We used to freeze our dill, but this year we’re going to try to get down to one freezer only. This will make it easier if we have to use the generator in the warmer seasons as our meat supply is kept there. We are also not planting broccoli, kale, or spinach for three reasons. We don’t really eat them, they are not that prolific in our garden and storing them, which is done in the freezer, takes up too much room.

This will be the second year that we are drying our multiplier onions. I did a small amount of them a few years ago and the result was excellent. Multipliers are small and very strong that grow in a bunch from one seed onion. Our multipliers are adapted to our area and have been growing here for decades in the family. We don’t grow or buy any other kind. They also store in bags all year long so drying is not critical for preservation but I’m doing it anyway because it creates a slightly different flavour in the onion than one not dehydrated. It also takes up less room.

Freezing

It’s easy to freeze many herbs, but not all. Parsley is the first one that comes to mind and we use it a lot. We use dill even more than parsley and it’s easy to chop and freeze. The only thing about parsley is that you have to harvest it early or it will have loads of aphids. Cilantro does not freeze well although some people make cilantro ice cubes for use in chili and possibly other dishes. Other herbs are frozen this way as well, but you could likely do it any way you find that works for you.

Substitutions

I have found that I am able to substitute herbs for most of the meals or recipes I make, or I do without them completely. An example of this is chili.  To replace the normal chili seasoning (cumin, cayenne, paprika) I use garlic powder, oregano, dried onions (which could be powdered)  and crushed hot peppers in place of cayenne. If you have those, you don’t need cayenne. I also add our own ground coriander seed, which I actually think is the most important herb for flavouring chili. I don’t use paprika or cumin because I can’t make or grow those myself. Some might not like chili without paprika and that is fine. My goal is, as I said, to be completely self sufficient with food, so this method of food preservation fits in well with that goal.

We don’t miss the other herbs and spices because we haven’t had them for years and it is more important to us to use our own. I want to be able to rely on what we have rather than running to the store for every little thing. The other reason is that we know where the herbs are grown and what is done to them before they get to our plates. Nothing is added or put on them for any reason.

Marjoram

Growing Your Own

In growing our own plants, we have been able to save seed for the following herbs: Summer Savoury, Thyme, Green Basil, Lime Basil, Mint, Chive, Winter Onion, Cilantro/Coriander, Oregano.

I often use Savoury as a substitute for Oregano and actually I prefer Savoury. Oregano does overwinter here but the flavour is not consistently strong, so I used the savoury instead.

Other herbs that we have not reached our self-sufficiency goal with are:  Sage, Lemon Balm, Parsley and this year I’m trying Marjoram again. It is also a substitute for Oregano but is sweeter. The only one of these that we use in any amount is sage with parsley a close second. With the growth there is on the Marjoram, it looks like we’ll get seed out of it as well.

We have had a couple of parsley plants go to seed in the past. Unfortunately, I forgot to check for seed from it, but at least I know what saving seed form parsley entails exactly. I have kept parsley over winter indoors and then planted it out in the spring before and that worked but they need a deep pot for the root and a bit of extra light, other wise the leaves do not green up enough.

The majority of our herbs are grown in containers with the exception of basil and parsley. When they are not transplanted out there is no transplant shock and you will have an earlier and more substantial harvest. Basil and Parsley are large plants with parsley hating to be restricted in it’s roots. I put most of the basil and all the parsley in the garden. There is at least a two week set back in growth because of that.

DIY

It’s no secret that I’m close to obsessed with self-sufficiency. In my opinion, which doesn’t matter but I’m going to say it anyway, more people should be concerned with being more self-sufficient. There is too much of a reliance on big companies for our food. I can’t really imagine what a good point for that would be other than it puts our food supply at risk. I have been saying that for many years. Since it’s so easy to grow herbs in containers, I encourage everyone to do it, and don’t waste any more money on store bought, irradiated seasonings grown who knows where. It’s crucial that people take more control of their own food right now.

Drying basil.

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