Nicole’s Favourite Things: The Herb Garden Edition

Earlier this week we got back from ten days at our vacation place; more about that later, but it was relaxing and chill, which I desperately needed. Prior to that my husband was out there for eight days by himself, which both worked out well – we have spent 24/7 together since March – and also was a challenge in terms of solo parenting emotional people getting ready for school/ worrying about possibly not going to school/ not knowing if their friends were going to school or taking the online option, not to mention preparing for the vacation itself, and all that entails. You all know what I’m talking about.

After coming home from ten days away, there was much to be done and I just now feel like I’ve caught up on groceries and laundry, scheduling the kids to go get their school ID and paperwork – school starts TUESDAY and I have feelings, but that will be left for another post – as well as picking up the dog from the kennel and – because the kennel either lost my booking or I failed to book him in for grooming – scheduling a visit to the groomer’s.

He’s happy to be back, can you tell?

Vacation, school, and everything in between will wait for next time. What I really wanted to talk about today is…

Nicole’s Favourite Things: The Herb Garden Edition

I have had so much fun this summer, growing herbs. I have kept them in pots by the back door, where it is sheltered and receives a blast of south-west sun, so it is also the hottest part of the yard. This year I grew basil, oregano, two kinds of mint, parsley, and chives, and I also transplanted my grown-in-house cilantro to a pot outside, and although transplanting cilantro is apparently a no-no, it worked great.

Pre-harvest! That’s the cilantro in front.

I learned some very important lessons: basil needs to be grown in a pot by itself, rather sharing a pot with the oregano, because oregano is super-bossy and totally takes over, don’t plant parsley unless you really love parsley or know people who do that don’t mind being constantly gifted parsley, and that I don’t actually use a lot of fresh herbs in my cooking.

I mean, I DO, I use cilantro often and chives are always a nice addition to dishes; I like to use fresh herbs while making salad dressings, and mint is nice for the occasional mojito. But honestly, my herbs were so prolific that I couldn’t possibly use them all fresh. So I got a little Ma Ingalls If Ma Ingalls Had An Herb Garden And Wasn’t Mostly Starving To Death On The Bald Prairie Most Of The Time:

Mint Extract

Fun fact about mint is that you should always grow it in a pot, unless you want it to take over your entire garden. It is VERY prolific; I would cut it right back, and within a day or two it would be happily popping back up. I decided to make some mint extract using a “recipe” I found on the internet.

First, fill a jar with a cup and a half of fresh mint. Or thereabouts!

Then muddle it to release the essence.

Add a cup or so of vodka, enough to cover things up. No need to get neurotic about the measurements. Just pour!

Fun fact! I was gifted that giant bottle of vodka on my fortieth birthday; I do like vodka but clearly I don’t have mixed drinks that often.

Don’t drink the vodka while you are doing this! Wait until later.

Once the vodka is added, let it sit in a dark cool spot for a couple of months, and then strain out the mint leaves. Did it work? Who knows! I’ll let you know around Christmastime.

Dehydration Nation

Longtime readers will remember my love affair with my dehydrator. Remember that episode of Friends when Joey has a roommate obsessed with dehydrating fruit? This? This, my friend, is a CANTALOUPE. I feel seen, is what I’m saying. Crazy Eddie, I feel you.

Anyway, my love affair continues as I used that baby to dry my herbs, particularly parsley, because OMG look at the parsley.

This was the second round of dehydrating parsley; it now looks like I need to do it a third time. WHO WANTS PARSLEY.

Excess of parsley aside, I have to tell you that it is very satisfying to have homemade dried herbs, like I’m “putting up” for the winter.

A Seedy Story

As my cilantro started to flower, my thoughts turned to seeds. Could I save the seeds for future plantings, possibly saving myself $1.99 for a seed pack? The answer is an unqualified yes.

The key to saving seeds is to allow them to DRY, and I didn’t use the dehydrator for that, I just left them on a paper towel in what is usually my indoor herb/ predominantly cilantro garden. The seeds in front were, I think, picked too soon. I may just grind them up with a mortar and pestle to make coriander. The rest are drying nicely and look like the seeds that you can buy in a package. I might be saving myself MORE than $1.99 this year. Maybe more like $2.98.

I think next year I will try a different variety of herbs; maybe just one type of mint and probably no parsley. That spot is so hot and shaded that I might just try growing tomatoes too. Wouldn’t that be fun; my very own caprese salad garden!

So tell me: have you been gardening this year? xo


  1. Woo-hoo on your savings! Every penny saved is a penny earned!

    *I’m* not growing any herbs (oh please, yes I am. The Husband potted them, but who do you think is caring for them?!) but The Husband currently has rosemary, basil, oregano, potatoes (of all things) and onion.

    I did grow spearmint last year – which smelled heavenly on the front porch – I really didn’t harvest any. I had only put it out there because I heard it repelled wasps…does it? Who knows…I rarely use the front porch.

  2. I am HERE FOR “putting up for winter.” Several of my friends had gardens and are now harvesting, which made me very much wish I had grown something, ANYTHING, that I could be harvesting / putting up. I think next year I will grow mint (IN A POT). I would love to have breath-freshening vodka!

  3. bibliomama2 says

    I prefer herbs dried to fresh too, but I just hang them up on the end of my kitchen cupboard to dry them – less efficient, but if I tried to add a dehydrator to my kitchen, my husband might leave. I make mint simple syrup all the time, but the extract is a great idea! And we grow mint free-range like morons, so it’s everywhere. Our neighbours did the same, and when they dug up their yard for a patio a few years ago the whole neighbourhood smelled like mint. Eve and I are going to make pesto with our basil this week.

  4. Hats off to you. I buy my spices and seasonings at the store and while I follow recipes for meals, I am not one for cooking with a dash of this and adding a dash of that. Very impressed by your efforts and such success. Tank works for a gardening group that cares for people’s gardens and lawns, etc. The owner gave him a watermelon plant. He planted it next to our front walk, oddly. Anyway he has a watermelon that is probably the size of a football by now. So, we are not all total garden flunkies. Glad you enjoyed 10 days away. Look forward to hearing about it. Barkley is the cutest.

  5. Yes, your adorable fluff monster looks so happy to see you.

    Good for you! Your herbs looks great. I’m envious of your cilantro growing becuase that is the ONE I can’t manage to do well with. I have all the others and I love using fresh herbs when cooking.
    I like how you prepared your drunk mint; I might just try that. I did something similar with cucumbers and tequila because cucumber maragaritas are the bomb.

  6. THIS IS MY KIND OF POST. I mean, all your posts are my kind of post. But I feel like I can Add To The Conversation. Well. We’ll see.

    I got an Aerogarden and grew two types of basil, cilantro, mint, dill, and thyme. Why thyme, when I can and do grow it in a pot outside and it fluorishes like no other??? The cilantro was a No Go in the aero garden, for some reason. But I had also purchased some little baby cilantros from the garden store and planted them in my four pots outside. Like, two cilantro plants per pot. Because we use A Lot of cilantro around here. But cilantro has SUCH a short growing season! And it is loooooooooong gone. I think I will plant exclusively cilantro (and maybe a basil??) in my aero garden once these plants decide to be done?

    Is that my fault? Will they continue growing forever and ever if I keep cutting them back? I am not good at cutting them back. Perhaps I have Too Many herbs???? But can that be a thing????????

    Okay maybe this is less a contribution to the conversation than a collection of unanswerable questions. I do love your extract idea though.

    • I felt like, after I harvested the cilantro seeds it was DONE. Like, I think it’s one of those things you have to keep planting. My neighbour just gave me a ton of dill and I dried it yesterday – the house smells heavenly, like pickles. In a good way. I think.

  7. My garden consists of two cherry tomato plants, two cucumber vines, a pepper plant, some flowers (mostly marigolds this year) and herbs: basil (2 kinds), chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, & rosemary. My parsley is not taking off like yours. It must like Canadian summers better, which makes sense because I find here it has a long season, sometimes lasting well into winter outside. Chives are what’s growing like crazy in my herb garden at the moment.

  8. Oh, and we had peas in June and early July.

  9. I was growing many of the same herbs as you, also sage(prolific!) and rosemary’s I grew lettuce and kale, both in pots but the kale wasn’t so great. Chives, also in pots turned out well! I also grew radishes, peas and carrots in my garden box but discovered the carrot tops must be cut off right away and the carrots eaten fairly soon – or they go soft! I’m not sure how well I’m going with all this, it’s definitely trial and error! Ive been drying some of the herbs in my basement- mason jar time tomorrow!

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