It all started with an oregano plant.
Just a simple oregano plant in a small container on my patio. After it grew to a decent size, I figured I should actually do something with it aside from watering and staring at it. I knew that to dry herbs you typically leave them out for weeks on end, and I didn’t really have the time or space for that. I found some information on a quick oven-drying technique, and I was off to the races.
Then I actually used some of the dried oregano in cooking – holy smokes is this what oregano is actually supposed to taste like?? Like most people I just used the McCormick stuff I got at the supermarket in recipes. After using the homegrown, I could never go back…
The ironic thing is that my dad (the original Plant Man) has grown and dried his own basil every year that I remember (and before that I’m sure). I would never dream of using store-bought basil, so why didn’t I realize that translates to other cooking herbs?? Who knows, but I’m proud to say I got my dad hooked on the dried oregano, and now we do trades of basil for oregano in mason jars.
Aside from the freshness/locavore factor, there is some science as to why homegrown herbs tastes better. Oxidation (the exposure to air when the cell walls of a plant are broken down) occurs when herbs are ground up, and degrades the quality and flavor. I’ve always known to keep my dried basil leaves intact until right before I use them, but I didn’t realize there is a scientific basis for it. If you notice, the store-bought stuff is already ground up which is one factor causing it to have nearly no flavor, comparatively. (Same goes for herbal tea, but that’s a post for another day).
The good thing is that growing herbs is super easy! You don’t even need a garden – a windowsill or sunny spot in your house will do. Of course not all herbs can be grown in every climate (I’m looking at you cinnamon bark), but go crazy with basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, thyme and more!