Herb Harvest

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It’s that time of year! We’re harvesting the last of summer flavor in herbaceous growth around Leafhopper Farm. Our Kaffir lime Citrus hystrix recieved a little pruning and the leaves will make a great seasoning once dry. The essential oil can be used in perfume making. Because the fruit is so small, it’s rind is the coveted flavoring, as the pulp flesh is so minimal. Citrus is a very luxurious flavor to have on the farm, and this tree comes inside during the winter for pampering during the cold months.

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In the herb gardens, trimming back new growth to “winterize” the plants promotes better growth next Spring. It also means we have a lot of biomass to process and most of it will go into the dehydrator. Herbs are best fresh, but for long term use, drying is one of the better ways to  DSCN2575

Culinary Sage salvia officinalis is a recognizable kitchen herb with aromatic sensations that send the mind down memory lane. Once established, this popular herb will offer flavor for years to come. In ancient times, it was used to ward off evil. Now, its one of the most common herbs used in culinary arts. The smell alone stimulated the mind and opens the senses. A bundle placed in a room will fill the space with a cleansing aroma. At Leafhopper Farm, sage is used to flavor the wonderful meat we raise.

Another well known herb growing at Leafhopper Farm is Oregano Origanum syriacum.
This herb we know today in Italian cuisine, originated in The Middle East. Oregano was one of the main herbs used in the flavoring mix known as Za’atar, which also includes basil, thyme, and savory. At the farm, Oregano goes into our homemade tomato sauces. This plant is great as a marginal species, meaning it will grow in rocky places, including the edges of our rock lined gardens. It’s a touch of green on otherwise barren rock, adding warmth to the beds and utilizing space less ideal for flora demanding heavier fertility in the soil.

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Italian Parsley Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum is another great herb for flavoring your food. For some, this particular flat leaf parsley is a little too strong, but when dried, it mellows out and becomes a very approachable taste. When prepping the plant for Fall, I spent time thinning the roots. The Parsley root is tenacious, and new plants spring up from developing root stock as the plant expands. When thinning, simply dig up the roots and pull some off the main plug. I got about five new plants off the mother, and planted them out in new beds. The Italian Parsley will be cultivated into a well established herb that Leafhopper Farm can sell in future.

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You can transplant off all the herbs I’ve mentioned so far by pulling off some root stock and replanting it. If you would like to cultivate more roots, simply bend over a branch of the living plant, bury it into the ground, and wait. By next Summer, that buried branch will put out new roots under ground and you can dig it up next Fall to plant out and expand your herb gardens. You can even pot the new root stock in pots to grow inside year round.

Herbs are a great way to begin farming for cash; everyone loves adding fresh flavor to their food. To sell dried herbs, you have to invest a little deeper to accommodate regulations. Each state has laws dictating how “value-added” products are controlled, and more inspection/certifications are necessary. The fresh plant can be sold as normal produce. However, if you are selling potted stock, you are operating a nursery and must have a nursery license. For now, Leafhopper will enjoy using the herbs on premises and continue to plant out new stock to develop enough product for future sales. A “you pick” herb garden will be a charming addition to the farm’s demonstration agricultural systems.

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Though our Cascadia Hops have already been featured in their own segment, I wanted to give a shout out to the plant and it’s use on the farm as an herb. Herbs are plants used for food, flavoring, medicine, or fragrances for their savory or aromatic properties. This would put hops in the herb category! These flowers will be dehydrated, and then could be used later for beer and or other flavoring. The dried flowers can be used as a tea to help relax, or burned as an incense.

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