Thursday, April 26, 2012

My dry pantry

Besides garlic, I'm starting to run out of other tasty things.  Mainly in my herb selection, but canned tomatoes and carrots are dangerously low as well. 

When I say "dangerous", you realize that no one will be hurt by this.  Just my sensitive desire to provide from my own garden. 

This is my lovely herb and spice drawer.  

Please don't judge me.  I'd like to have this:


but I just aim to improve every year.  And I do.  Last fall I started labelling the tops of my jars in this drawer so I could actually tell what was in them without lifting them all out and reading a side label, or worse, smelling them to know what the green stuff was. 

See? Baby steps. 

These are two empty jars:  thyme and lemon balm.  I seeded lemon thyme this year hoping it will do better than my balm did.   It's so hard to know because the weather was so bad last year.  And is lemon balm a perennial?  If so, I should get it back again and hopefully bigger.  I'll have to look that up. 

I'm also totally out of oregano.  That's a pity because I could use a lot more of that and I don't see signs of life on the small oregano plant yet. 

I've been using the dehydrator more every year.  I got a free book from a book exchange room at the Jasper museum last month called "Dry It, You'll Like It".  I'm sure it was seen as a hippy book in the seventies, written by people living on the edge of normal, but I read it cover to cover.  Loads of good advice and a plan for a solar dehydrator.  I'll have to try some of their recipes and ideas.

One of the most useful dried item from last year turned out to be the dried leeks.  Well, the dried cherries, strawberries, plums and apples were probably the most loved and have been gone the longest, but I've been using leeks in loads of things.  Anytime I'm too lazy to chop an onion really.  And I still have lots left. 

And when I'm really pushed for time and don't think the leeks will rehydrate in the recipe quickly enough, Yvon brilliantly thought to whiz some up in the Magic Bullet.  Leek powder is perfect and I use it all the time.

And parsley and chives have been in our kitchen drawer every year for years now.  I don't know why exactly, but I've also always kept a bag of balloons in this drawer. You can see them in the picture.   It used to be very handy when the kids were little and easily distracted by a new toy while I was cooking, I guess.  One day they'll be too old for balloons but for now, they still know where to look for them. 

Back on topic though, I like growing parsley for some reason.  It even looks pretty as the green in a flowering basket, so I always have too much of it.  And the chives propogate themselves prettily through the flower garden.  I don't mind. 

My mint plant was tiny last year.  I thought anyone who grew mint had to much mint.  What did I do wrong?  I don't use a lot of mint in my cooking, but I still ran out.

Swiss chard and kale were also very good dried.  I throw them in most tomato sauces (pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, chili) and the kids never complain.  In fact, if I crumble it small enough they probably think it's just parsley.  I'm hoping a lot of the nutrition is preserved in the drying process because I do count it as a veggie portion in their meals.  I'm totally out of the dried kale and have been for some time.  Again, the lack of heat last summer did us no favours. 

Things I won't dry again are carrots, peppers, green beans and zucchini.  Although the kids like the zucchini chips when they were fresh, no one would eat them after a few months.  Either the novelty wore off or the texture changed.  The other vegetables just didn't taste great or have great texture when rehydrated.  I did try to use them in soups and stews, but wasn't impressed.  As long as I have freezers, that's what I'll do with those veggies. 

Thinking about the leek powder though, maybe I can still blend up the unwanted vegetables and make cream soups.  Maybe that's something to try before I throw them out. 

What do you dry?

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