Onion Flowers

Onion Flowers

In addition to my balcony garden, I have a plot in the community garden.  It’s not a big space, but I do have a little irrigation system hooked up that auto-waters every morning and evening.  This is a huge time saver; I only have to stop by a few times a week to check on things, picking whatever is ready to go. If I’m being honest, I’d like to have the whole garden to myself, but I guess I have to share.  Bummer.

Community Garden

Community Garden

This Saturday, I stopped by and found the herbs mounting a hostile take-over of the entire space.  Who knew sage could choke out a tomato with such ease? I’m not even exaggerating. See for yourself.

Herb garden

Herbmania

And that’s only one side. Luckily, I’d brought several bags with me to carry things home and a pair of garden scissors.  After a solid, sweaty 40 minutes of aggressive trimming, I had scored three grocery-sized bags of sage, thyme and oregano.  The red onions were plump and ready to go, so I pulled them too, along with the red leaf lettuce.

 red onions

Fresh red onions

I would have rather spaced things out a little more than deal with everything all at once, but with the herbal revolt and 90 degree temperatures causing the lettuce to bolt, it all needed to be done right away.  I lugged my harvest home and knew that Sunday was going to be spent in the kitchen, but that’s not a hardship, in my opinion.

So, what can you do with a zillion pounds of fresh herbs, onions and lettuce?  Well, eat salad for days and preserve the rest for later.  The small, red onion bulbs were planted in the garden early this spring, but with the hot temperatures so early in the season, they had bolted, forming a white burst of flowers on tall stalks.

This meant the onions wouldn’t store well and needed to be used soon.  Normally, onions need to be cured in a dry location for at least two weeks and then stored in a cool, dark place.  Even though these would be eaten fresh, I spread them out on our balcony table to dry for a couple of days. This would seal the skins, giving me a little more time to use them.  Usually, you can leave the tops on as the onions dry, but since I was going to be using them right away instead of storing them, I trimmed off the green tops to be used as well.

Preserve For Later

chives

Onion tops on the dehydrator tray

Just like chives, onion tops can be used to top salads, soups, potatoes or just about anything you like.  When fresh, they have a strong, spicy flavor that I love.  I held some back, carefully putting them in a jar of water in the fridge to keep fresh for longer.  I sliced the rest, spread them over the trays of my dehydrator .  Once dried, they can still be used as toppers for months if stored in an airtight jar.

I’ll use some of the herbs fresh and the rest will be dried to use this winter.  I’ll store them in jars to use and give some away.  One or two plants for cooking, or to dry for later is all you need.

Fresh oregano

Oregano ready to be dried

Herbs do better with regular trimming.  Otherwise, they get overgrown and bushy.  If you don’t need any right away, dry them for later.

Have you ever noticed how much one of those tiny packages of fresh herbs cost at the store?   You can easily spend $2 to $4 on just one.  What’s worse is that you use only a small amount for most recipes and the rest turns to slime in the fridge.  Being able to trim only what you need from a pot on the balcony is so much cheaper, less wasteful and more convenient than buying fresh herbs from the store.

Homegrown herbs turn up the flavor of any meal, but not the price.  It’s nice to have them on hand anytime I need them, without having to pay a ridiculous price at the store.

That was my weekend, how was yours?