The Herb Pot
Every pantry should have one, the greens jar, herb pot or what I often refer to as the pantry pot. The much used container full of savory herbs, wild greens and cast away tops from the garden or plucked wild from safe byways or fields, just waiting to do their duty to flavor winter soups and stews. I usually start my herb pot in early spring as the first sprouts of dandelion, chickweed; chives and garlic are forcing their way to the world. Most kitchen gardens have an herb bed near by where the favorites are grown and added to the pot: basil, oregano, sage, dill, mint, rosemary, and thyme just to name a few. Any herb can be used to spike the pot or you can make several combinations for different uses. Some have a pizza pot, soup pot, an Italian pot, canning pot, and so on. The possibilities are endless and fun to explore and taste.
Fresh herbs are the best additives to any dish, but for winter time use, dried herbs are a close second choice and so easy to do yourself. I simply hang mine upside down in the dark pantry, you can also dry them in your oven without heating up the kitchen, if you have a pilot light, just single layer them on a cookie sheet and place in oven. This method may take several days but is easy. Another way is to take that single layer on cookie sheets and place outside in a sunny spot. You may want to cover with cheesecloth if the bugs find them, but usually they won’t mess with herbs. This way only takes several hours on a hot day.
You can use any glass or ceramic jar, pot or container with lid. I don’t like to use plastic, I’m just not a fan of that material, but you can make do if that is all you have handy. You can start anytime, but spring is best for more variety, but since you will be constantly adding to it, a good size container is best. Your choices are up to you, but a few good standbys are: basil, oregano, sage, onion tops, celery tops, garlic greens, leek greens, and chives. A more seasoned pot may contain some wild greens and native plants: dandelion, chickweed, burdock, chicory, yellow dock, day lily, mint, mushrooms and pokeweed, just some wild ideas to sample. The native plants have so much to offer in ways of flavor and vitamin content, but learn to identify your local plants and always harvest at the right time, take pokeweed for example, this plant is best taken in spring when the shoots are young.
Once your pot is ready to fill, make sure your dry herbs are truly dry. Many times not all the moisture content has escaped, causing the whole pot to become moldy, forcing you to throw it out and start over. Fill your pot as you go, and gently shaking to mix the greens. Use as needed and enjoy often. In the middle of winter the best soups are made from adding a pinch from the pot! So, start your own pantry pot now, you still have time to savor this simple way of tasting summer all winter long!