What Size Plant Heat Mat Should I Buy?

    

      The purchase of a plant heating mat should be based upon your needs as to size.  
 

Plant Heat Mat 20 1/2 inches by 13 1/2 inches

Plant Heat Mat 20 1/2 inches by 13 1/2 inches

 

How Many Seedlings Can I Start from Seed Indoors?

          The germination heat mats offered by North Country Herbs come in two sizes.  

          One mat is 20 1/2 inches long and 13 1/2 inches wide.  

          The other mat is 36 inches long and 16 inches wide.  

          When starting seeds indoors, the standard propagation tray that you are likely to place on a germination heat mat is 21 inches long by 11 inches wide.  If you use eight standard 9-cell inserts or seed the propagation tray itself, you can potentially grow 72 seedlings in one tray.

 

Our 20 1/2 inch by 13 1/2 inch Plant Heat Mat

          The 20 1/2 inch by 13 1/2 inch germination heat mat by Gro-Mat provides heat beneath one standard propagation tray.  This will allow you to start approximately 72 seedlings at a time.

 

Our 36 inch by 16 inch Plant Heat Mat

          The dimensions of the larger Gro-Mat will permit you to fit up to 3 standard propagation trays upon it side by side across the length of the mat.  Several inches of the propagation trays will not lie directly on the Gro-Mat but will receive the benefits of the ambient heat.  If you chose to purchase the larger plant heat mat, you can potentially start 216 seedlings at a time.  

 

What Size Germination Heat Mat Do I Need?

     If you are just beginning to learn how to germinate seeds indoors, you may wish to purchase the smaller propagation mat.  That size might be just the right fit for your home or apartment.

     But if you have the space, you may want to invest in the larger germination heat mat or several of the smaller size germination heat mats.  Gardeners learn how to start seedlings indoors on a tray-by-tray basis. Having the option of seeding more than one tray at a time will give you more opportunities to learn about the process.

     Now that you have the measurements and know about the relationship between the size of a standard propagation tray and the size of our plant heat mats, be sure to purchase the size plant heating mat that suits your needs.  Happy seeding from North Country Herbs!

 

Gardener’s Color Wheel

Seed catalogs are enchanting picture books that, no matter what your age, you can look at for hours, because — you are a gardener!

The appeal of the seed catalog lies with the colors of the flowers pictured on every page.  Just looking at those pictures, taking your eyes away from unrelenting tones of winter white and steel grey and naked bark, makes you want to purchase every flower seed offered for sale.

But perhaps you should put aside those catalogs and first look at a Gardener’s Color Wheel.

wheel_lg

If you have space for a colorful, small garden and not the penultimate flower farm, the colors of your flowers must fit within the borders of your garden beds.  So, you have to make choices.

This decision making is the most creative winter pastime of gardeners.   It is during the cold months the gardener allows herself to spend time to consider… weigh… remember… decide… and plan …colors.  

The resource then that should stay right beside your favorite seed catalog is a Gardener’s Color Wheel.  The Wheel will help you select flowers and foliage that will complement or, quite deliberately and beautifully, contrast with, other flowers and foliage.  The Color Wheel helps the gardener to realize the particular colors of her personal garden.

Our Gardener’s Color Wheel is made using two discs of water resistant cardstock coated in order to prevent the sun from fading the print and ink.

North Country Herbs offers the Gardener’s Color Wheel and other affordably priced garden tools that will be useful to you for many seasons. Using a Color Wheel allows you to bring the colors, now in your mind’s eye this winter, to come to life this spring

 

Michael Pollan Takes Cooking Classes

 

    In Cooked, ©2013 Penguin Press, journalist, writer and now professor, Michael Pollan writes about his time as a student of some extraordinary chefs.  

    In his introduction, Pollan admits his having an epiphany.  He had written about food because he loved his mother’s cooking, was fascinated with the subject of food and enjoyed reading unusual recipes.  He had experimented with herb sauces and purchased kitchen gadgets.

     Now, he wanted to write about preparing food.  There was one small problem:  even though he had written seven books about food, he had not spent any significant time actually preparing it.   So in order to write Cooked, Professor Pollan had to take some cooking classes and actually do the work that cooks do.  
    
    The subtitle of Cooked is “A Natural History of Transformation” and the book is divided into sections titled Fire, Water, Air and Earth.  These titles permit Pollan to go beyond describing his internships with master chefs and into a wide ranging, but thoughtful, presentation of his research of food preparation.
    
    So, in “Fire,” Pollan, inspired by a master barbeque chef, offers keen observations of fire pit restaurants serving barbecued pork. Then, he pivots to a description of biblical animal sacrifice and Greek mythology.  Next, he compares hog farming in colonial times to industrial hog farming today.  After all that, he ventures to his backyard grill, taking all he has learned to serve up his own barbeque.

    Pollan’s blend of research, admissions of kitchen mishaps and personal musings (about, for instance, the vital importance of onions) makes Cooked a great read.  But the real attraction of Pollan’s book is his description of the work of the cooks who gave him classes.  

    Part I titled “Fire” describes Pollan’s apprenticeship with a rambunctious, North Carolina barbeque pit master named Ed Mitchell.

    Part II titled “Water,” is organized as a seven step recipe on how to blend and braise to serve up exquisite flavor.  For that, Pollan is home schooled in his own kitchen by Chef Samin Nosrat.

    In the “Air” chapters, Pollan writes about working under the tutelage of  Chad Robertson, a bread maker whose artisanal bread is so desired by San Franciscans that they line up to purchase one of the  250 loaves he bakes a day.  

    The “Earth” section features Pollan’s fermentation internships with advocate and teacher Sandor Katz, brewer Shane MacKay and cheese maker and microbiologist Sister Noella Marcellino.
    
    Interspersed with his description of the techniques of these master chefs and his historical research, Pollan relates his interviews with other cooks, farmers and experts of the American food scene – all of whom Pollan graciously acknowledges.
    
    At times, Pollan cannot avoid using his lexicon that certain people “cook” and “transform” food and corporate food providers and fast food establishments only “process” and “package” it.

      For the most part however, Pollan puts food politics aside.  He seems to have enjoyed the temporary role of observant sous chef. His curiosity and enthusiasm are apparent.  He is happy to have authored a book that he says put him in a sweet spot where the frontier between work and play disappears.

     When Professor Michael Pollan goes on sabbatical, he is able to provide access to some very special kitchens.   By writing Cooked, he brings his readers along with him to that sweet spot.

 

Small Food Processors and Mezzalunas Help During the Holidays

 

All recipes for one mandatory holiday dish, turkey stuffing, require parsley, sage and thyme. The weeks before the holidays are usually the times cooks go to the supermarket to purchase these herbs.

But, all of the herbs for sale in the “spice” aisle are uniformly sized and colored green and consist of dried flakes and powder.  The cook has no opportunity to smell the distinctive scents of the herbs and they cannot be distinguished by leaf shape.

We wish to show pictures of where those flakes of parsley and powdered sage and thyme sold in the supermarket actually come from – the parsley plant, the sage plant and the thyme plant.

We would also like to show you pictures of some of the equipment that we offer so if you purchase fresh parsley, sage and thyme in the summer or grow these herbs in your garden and then freeze and dry them, you will have them in the ready for next year's holidays.

Parsley is a biennial herb that you can grow in your garden.  Most gardeners purchase a new plant every year as parsley is most flavorful in its first year.  You may preserve parsley that you have not used in the summer by freezing its leaves.

Parsley Plant

Parsley Plant

 

Sage is a perennial herb that can also be easily grown in your garden.  You preserve whole sage leaves that are not used in the summer by drying and storing the leaves and grinding them as needed.  

Sage Plant

Sage Plant

Thyme is another perennial culinary herb that you can grow in your garden.  Thyme can also be preserved by drying.  

Thyme Plant

Thyme Plant

Buy ground parsley, sage and thyme in the supermarket now.  But remember this coming spring that these herb plants can be easily grown by you for use next year’s holiday season!

Now that you have actually seen the source of the herbs flavoring your stuffing, remember that  the food processors and those special herb choppers, the mezzaluna knives offered by North Country Herbs, help you to make the stuffing for your holiday meals.

We offer two compact food processors, the Cuisinart Mini Prep food processor and the Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus food processor.  Both are excellent for chopping and mincing fresh herbs and grinding dried herbs.

Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor

Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor

North Country Herbs also offers four sizes of mezzaluna knives.

Mezzaluna Knife Herb Chopper

Mezzaluna Knife Herb Chopper

We offer: a 5 ½” single blade mezzaluna; a 5 ½” double blade mezzaluna; a 10 ½" single blade mezzaluna; and an 11 ¾” double blade mezzaluna.  The mezzaluna is the traditional knife for chopping fresh herbs.

 

How to use a Dehydrator to Preserve Thyme

    

The easy way to preserve thyme for autumn and winter stews, soups and chicken dishes is to dry it with the help of a food dehydrator from North Country Herbs.

Thyme in the Garden

Thyme in the Garden

    While there are over 350 species of thyme, Common Thyme is the species most often used in cooking.  Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a shrub about 12 inches tall with woody stems and small, pointed, aromatic green leaves.  Those aromatic leaves contain essential oils that give thyme a rich but mellow, peppery-mint flavor and scent.

      To use thyme in the summer, cut tips as needed.  To use Thyme in the autumn and winter, harvest  whole stems from your garden.  Cut all of plant stems by about two-thirds.  Harvest cuttings may be taken up to two times per season.  

    Since thyme is a short, woody shrub relatively close to the ground, first rinse the cuttings and pat them dry prior to placing them in the dehydrator.

Rinsed Fresh Thyme

Rinsed Fresh Thyme

    Place whole sprigs of thyme in the dehydrator.  Leaves should not be removed from the stems.  Do not overload the dehydrator but permit air to pass freely about the sprigs.

Fresh Thyme in the Dehydrator

Fresh Thyme in the Dehydrator

    It takes about 24 hours to fully dry thyme.  The gentle heat and circulating air of the dehydrator assures that the thyme leaves will not be burnt and will retain their fragrance.  After drying, remove the leaves from the stems.

Thyme after dehydration

Thyme after dehydration

    The flavor of Thyme is strong and survives prolonged cooking.  An herb that retains its flavor and will infuse that flavor in a slow cooked meal such as a soup, stew or roasted chicken is a very valuable herb to have on hand in the colder months.  Drying thyme with a dehydrator will help you have an ample amount of this wonderful culinary herb.

Dehydrated Thyme Leaves

Dehydrated Thyme Leaves

     To learn more about the dehydrators offered by North Country Herbs, visit our website.  We offer products that we have tested and found to be useful to an herb lover.  Take a look at our two kitchen size dehydrators – the Nesco dehydrator and the Waring dehydrator.  They are perfect when it’s thyme to dry thyme!

 

 

 

FDA to Herb Producers: Keep It Clean!

  

     In January 2013, the Food and Drug Administration published food safety guidelines relating fresh culinary herbs.

    The guidelines address the growing of basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, culantro, dill, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, tarragon and thyme.

    The guidelines are meant to set standards for large commercial growers.  But home gardeners growing kitchen herbs who wish to learn more about the government food safety standards would do well to consult this publication.

    Just as importantly, food safety experts at the FDA who want to learn more about fresh culinary herbs should consult with smaller growers, herb gardeners.

 

Background

    According to the FDA, its regulation of the produce industry has been in the works since 1998.  Its records indicate that between 2004 and 2011, a harmful strain of bacteria called Salmonella was detected in 28 samples of the herb, cilantro.

    In response to another finding of Salmonella in cilantro in January, 2011, the FDA issued a letter to growers of cilantro.  In this letter of March, 2011, the FDA asked growers to identify potential hazards specific to the cultivation of cilantro.   The fresh culinary herb producers took the hint.  They decided to address not only cilantro but also 16 additional edible herbs.  The growers would work with the FDA and academic experts to develop food safety guidelines “specific” to culinary herbs.

 

The Guidelines

    The Guidelines are difficult to understand without a background in large scale farming.

     For instance, an herb is not simply an herb but a “RAC,” meaning “raw agricultural commodity. “

     An herb that is rinsed is an “RTE,” a “ready- to-eat food” that is edible without additional preparation to achieve food safety because it has been thoroughly washed before being cut.

    An “RTU” means an herb that is “ready-to-use” but has been only minimally processed.  RTU herbs have been cleaned, trimmed and possibly cut, but require further washing and preparation prior to consumption.

    The FDA’s list of abbreviations and definitions should be read first and understood.

 

Best Practices

    The Guidelines recommend that growers keep detailed records of all potential physical, chemical and microbiological food safety hazards and that growers monitor conditions such as water, soil amendments, environmental factors and equipment.  These records, along with scrupulous labeling, enable the FDA to trace contamination problems from the supermarket package back to the field.  Contaminated herbs in the field and in the supply chain can then be destroyed.

    The FDA recommends that growers review topography, land history, risk of flooding, adjacent land use and domestic animal and wildlife presence.  It also recommends that the growers operate in sync with their actual weather conditions as specific weather conditions produce different risks of food contamination.

    The Guidelines set forth best practices to be followed.  The FDA indicates that before planting, during the growing season and at harvest, growers must assess environmental conditions, water conditions, soil amendments, hygiene of field and harvest personnel, equipment cross contamination, flooding and field packing operations.

    The FDA suggests actions to mitigate potential problems, such as specific instructions on the distance to be maintained between fields of herbs and adjacent problem areas.  

    As to water, the FDA urges farmers to evaluate water’s potential to produce human pathogens.  The FDA urges the growers to evaluate if their watering method will, for instance, deposit soil on the crop, free moisture on the plant’s surfaces or pool water that attracts animals.  If the grower’s watering method would possibly lead to contamination, corrective action should be taken.  

    The FDA has strong admonishments concerning soil amendments that include raw or under-composted materials, particularly animal manure.  It’s simple:  don’t use it.

    In a section titled “Post-Harvest Unit Operation,” the FDA notes that the time between harvest and cooling should be minimal since microbes multiply rapidly under warm, moist conditions.  Finally, the FDA gives its recommendations as to the construction, design and maintenance of packing houses, cooling facilities and processing plants.

 

The “Take Away” for Herb Gardeners

    The purpose of the FDA’s food safety guidelines for fresh culinary herbs was to establish best practices so that large scale herb growers and processors could prevent their crops from making people ill.  

    The FDA’s report is useful to commercial growers with large fields of culinary herb plants tended to by farm workers.  However, the backyard beds that are most often maintained by only one gardener should follow the same “best practices.”

    Gardeners should look for the best place to site their garden.  The home garden should not for instance be downhill from a septic system or contaminated land.

    Herb gardeners should address potential hazards to the plants in their garden.  Gardeners should for instance, know that their garden is not a place to walk their pets.  They should not use herbicides and pesticides that will leave a residue on their herbs.  Soil amendments should be appropriate for the growing of vegetables and herbs.   Hand tools should be kept clean.  Watering should be done only when needed and where needed.

    While written in terms of facilities and equipment, the guidelines should be adapted as best practices in the kitchen of the herb gardener.  The kitchen’s cutting boards, counters, refrigerator and sink should clean.

    Most of the FDA recommendations are meant to apply to leafy green crops harvested by machine and placed in containers.  But the guidelines also address herbs harvested by hand.  Since herb gardeners would harvest by hand, the FDA’s input as to knives, containers and other hand tools is helpful.

     For instance, the FDA points out that the cut surfaces of fresh culinary herbs are more vulnerable to microbial contamination than the uncut surfaces.  The agency recommends knives be constructed of stainless steel with plastic or stainless steel handles and smooth seams, welds and joints so that they can be effectively cleaned and sanitized.  

    The agency further notes that wooden handles do not lend themselves to efficient sanitation and hand held tools constructed with standard, rather than stainless, steel will not hold up to routine sanitation with most sanitizing or oxidizing agents.

    Herb gardeners should also follow the FDA’s recommendation to harvest, wash, dry and cool or process quickly.

 

How Herb Gardeners Might Inform the FDA

    The FDA so-called “commodity specific” food safety guidelines relating to fresh culinary herbs are simply not specific enough.    Herb gardeners growing culinary herbs long before pesto became popular enough so that basil would be mass “produced” as a “commodity” know better.

     The standards seem to concentrate on the fields rather than the plants. Some herbs have very delicate foliage and others strong leaves. Some herbs sprawl on soil; others grow upright.  Some edible perennial herbs have woody stems and are actually considered shrubs.

     No two herbs are quite the same. Each herb is grown and harvested in a different way and certainly in a way that is different from leafy green vegetables.  It follows then that guidelines as to food safety might differ from herb to herb.

     When the FDA has the opportunity to take a second look at food safety guidelines for fresh culinary herbs, it might wish to ask for more input from the smallest of growers, those with herb gardens.  While the commercial growers focus on the fields, herb gardeners focus on the plants.

 

Garden Damselfly and Dragonfly

     This year some Twelve-spot Skimmers visited the garden.

     The Skimmers are a variety of damselfly (the male is known as the dragonfly) belonging to the insect order “Odonata.”  They have a total of twelve spots on their four wings.

     

Twelve-spot Skimmer Dragonfly

Twelve-spot Skimmer Dragonfly

According to the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Insects and Spiders, Chanticleer Press, Inc. © 1980, the head and thorax of a Skimmer is chocolate to light brown and the abdomen, gray-brown to whitish, p 373.  I might not have seen this variety because its colors blend into my landscape.  But these Skimmers had taken a liking to the light gray, concrete blocks forming the back wall of one of the garden beds.  Spreading their wings against this light canvas, they were easy to spot.

    

Two Dragonflies on Garden Wall

Two Dragonflies on Garden Wall

The damselfly is a voracious predator of insects.  Some of these insects are garden pests.  But they also make meals of insects that are “beneficial” to garden plants.  This winged insectivore catches and eats insects very quickly so I am not sure they feasted upon my garden’s pests or beneficial insects.  However, I was pleased to find that they have a particular taste for mosquitoes, which seem to have a taste for me!

     Only after I had spotted these insects in the garden, did I come across a fascinating article by Natalie Angier published in the New York Times on April 1, 2013 titled “Nature’s Drone, Pretty and Deadly.”  

     Natalie Angier reports that scientists are now actively studying the damselfly, and its mate, the dragonfly.  The scientists are using miniature tools to learn more about how the brains and eyes of these insects permit them to fly so quickly and with such focus that they almost always capture their intended prey, undetected.

     What was most surprising, maybe not so surprising, about Natalie Angier’s article (given its title) was one small paragraph indicating that dragonfly research was being funded by the military, here and abroad, who are investing in drone technology.  

    

Dragonfly rests between flights

Dragonfly rests between flights

With this year’s visit of the damselfly and dragonfly, I am reminded that the garden is not a model of the peaceable kingdom one might wish it to be.

 

Preserve Tarragon with a Food Dehydrator

Drying the herb tarragon with a food dehydrator will allow you to add flavor and nutrition to your cooking year-round.

Tarragon in the Garden

Tarragon in the Garden

Tarragon is not easy to propagate because it does not produce seeds.  Since tarragon does not produce seeds, you introduce this culinary herb to your garden by purchasing a plant.  Thereafter, you can grow more tarragon by taking a cutting from your existing plant or by dividing your existing plant into two or three plants.

Tarragon is not a particularly attractive garden herb because it does not maintain a compact shape—it folds, flops and sprawls.

Tarragon showing its characteristic of being

Tarragon showing its characteristic of being “floppy”

Notwithstanding the challenges of propagation and untidy sprawl, growing tarragon is easy and well worth the effort.  It is a most flavorful herb with a distinct anise flavor.  The addition of tarragon to any sauce adds depth.  Tarragon is associated with French cooking but you can use it whenever you wish to make your recipe special.  You need not even have a grand recipe in mind.  Tarragon can be enjoyed just by sprinkling it with a pat of butter on boiled carrots!  

To dry your garden’s tarragon in a dehydrator, first take cuttings from your plant.  Cutting about 8 to 10 stems that are 8 inches long will give you enough tarragon to fit nicely into the trays of the dehydrator pictured below.

Tarragon cutting rinsed and ready to dry

Tarragon cutting rinsed and ready to dry

Since the stems of the tarragon plant flop and sprawl, some leaves might have laid on the ground.  Therefore, rinse the stem and leaves and pat them dry prior to placing them in the dehydrator.

Do not remove the leaves from the stems.  The dehydrator uses a fan to disburse warm air throughout its compartment.  If taken off the stems, the leaves might fly about in the compartment.  Keeping the leaves on their stems will keep the leaves in place during the dehydration process.

Fresh tarragon on the tray of a food dehydrator

Fresh Tarragon on the tray of a food dehydrator

The leaves of tarragon and narrow but 1 to 4 inches long.  It will take time for the dehydrator to thoroughly dry the leaves because the dehydrator will be set at a low but optimal temperature.  Set at 100° F and fully packed with tarragon, it took 2 days to dry the fresh garden tarragon with the Nesco Model FD-75PR (5 Tray) Snackmaster® Pro Food Dehydrator. Using a dehydrator will insure that your tarragon will have dried, not burned, in a dust free environment away from all moist conditions inside your home.

Dried Tarragon on the tray of a food dehydrator

Dried Tarragon on the tray of a food dehydrator

After the tarragon is dry, hold a stem and pinch off the leaves on the stem and then discard the stem.

Remove dried tarragon leaves by pinching stem in a downward motion

Remove dried tarragon leaves by pinching stem in a downward motion

You will never need to purchase dried tarragon again because you can easily grow tarragon in your garden and just as easily preserve it for  kitchen use.

Tarragon dried using a home food dehydrator

Tarragon dried using a home food dehydrator

If you wish to preserve tarragon and other herbs from your garden, a dehydrator is a wise investment.  To purchase a dehydrator from North Country Herbs that is a good size and great value for the family gardener and cook, click on the link I can dry my own herbs.

 

Our Wood Plant Markers Reflect North Country Style

A plant marker is used by gardeners to distinguish plants.

Can you tell what herb is shown in the first picture?

An herb known as Artemisia dracunculus var.sativa

An herb known as Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

What is the herb in the second picture?

An herb known as Rosmarinus officinalis

An herb known as Rosmarinus officinalis

As shown by our wooden plant marker, the herb in the second picture is Rosemary.  The herb in the first picture is Tarragon.  Since both have green leaves shaped like the head of a lance or "lanceolate" leaves, they look similar and a plant marker is useful to distinguish between them.

Wood plant Marker identifying the herb Rosemary

Wood Plant Marker identifying the herb Rosemary

You may have started to garden by marking seed rows with seed packets. That was economical – until the seed packet got wet!

The thin plastic markers that come with seedlings could also be placed in the ground.  Those markers indicated the type of light needed by the plant and some even offered recipes.  But often the print was too small, and if you were not careful to take each and every one of these plastic markers out of the ground at the end of the season, come the following spring, your garden contained unintended plastic refuse!

Your next purchase of markers might have been the ubiquitous, blank plastic markers sold by the big box stores. They were water resistant but not weather proof.  The writing would fade after one season and again, if you did not remove all of them at the end of the growing season, you ended up with plastic garden litter.

And here you are now.  You are an experienced gardener at a fork in the gardening road.  You could purchase either of two types of garden markers.

You can purchase garden plant markers that are what I would call the “indestructibles”.  These markers are metal and used by nurseries exhibiting their wares in the ground.  They are very functional.  

Your second option is to go for style!

Plant marker fashion has really taken off and you can purchase all types of markers which are functional but which also allow you to make your own garden statement.

At North Country Herbs, our twig-like, 12” wood markers for plants will bring a bit of the North Country to your garden.

To purchase our wood garden markers, click on the link Bring some North Country to My Garden!  

 

Small food processors are excellent for grinding dry herb leaves

The compact food processors offered by North Country Herbs have been chosen so that herb gardeners and cooks can work with the perfect size processor for their kitchen requirements.  These food processors can chop herbs to make tasty sauces, spreads and dips.  But, they are also ideal for grinding the whole leaves of dried herbs that can be incorporated into family meals.

Whole dried oregano leaves ready to be ground with the Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor

Whole dried oregano leaves ready to be ground with the Cuisinart Mini Prep Food Processor

Many cooks will use the whole leaves of herbs in their cooking, and that is appropriate for some dishes.  But other recipes call for the addition of dry ground herbs.  Using a small food processor makes an easy job of taking the whole leaves of dried herbs and grinding them, as needed, for a particular recipe.

One delicious Italian dish that would use ground herbs is chicken oreganato, seasoned with olive oil, lemon and, of course, oregano.

Oregano (O. Herecleoticum) in the Garden

Oregano (O. Herecleoticum) in the Garden

Oregano (Origanum) is a perennial herb.  The leaves of Oregano are used in cooking.  While there are many varieties, Greek Oregano (also known as O. vulgare or O. Heracleoticum) is very flavorful.

Oregano grows best in the United States Department of Agriculture (U. S. D. A.) Zones 5 through 9.  The plant needs full sun and well drained soil.  Greek Oregano will be 18 to 24 inches in height and should be spaced for a width of 18 inches. One Oregano plant can give you an abundance of leaves, which you should dry and keep whole until just prior to use.

Whole dried leaves of Oregano in bowl of a compact food processor

Whole dried leaves of Oregano in bowl of a compact food processor

Grinding the herb leaves will release the essential oils of the herbs that impart their flavor.  Keeping the leaves whole until just prior to their use will keep these flavor oils intact.  That is why is best to grind the whole herb leaves right before you are ready to use them and have the storage time of the ground herbs kept to a minimum.

Since there is a need only for a small bowl to grind the amount of herbs used in family recipes, the compact food processors offered by North Country Herbs are suitable for the task.

Both of the food processors that we offer have reversible blades.  One blade is sharp for chopping herb leaves and the other blade is blunt for chopping denser foods. To grind whole leaves of dried herbs, you would use the sharp blade.  Once you have set up the proper blade, you would put the whole leaves of the herbs into the bowl of the food processor.

The Cuisinart Mini Prep food processor has a reversible blade to chop food. The sharper side of the blade would be used to grind dried herbs

The Cuisinart Mini Prep food processor has a reversible blade to chop food. The sharper side of the blade would be used to grind dried herbs

Then you put on the top of the food processor, locking it in place.  You then start the food processor which will cause the blade to cut through the dried herbs leaves.  In short order, really just a matter of seconds, the herb leaves will be ground and ready for use.

Oregano ground by using a small food processor

Oregano ground by using a small food processor

The herb cook will find many uses for this small kitchen appliance. The ability to easily grind dried herbs in order to prepare delicious herb-centered meals is a great reason to purchase a food processor from North Country Herbs today.

North Country Herbs offer two food processors.

The Cuisinart® Mini Prep is equipped with a 21 ounce bowl and comes in black chrome and white.

The Cuisinart ® Mini Prep Plus® is equipped with a 3 cup (24 ounce) bowl and comes in brushed chrome or white.