Spice it up for the holidays

Horticulture Hints

With the holidays now approaching, is your spice cupboard ready for the family feast? Although purchased spices used for holiday baking may keep many years, check expiration dates for freshness as listed on the container for best results. As many spices for holiday recipes may be used infrequently, it is important to ensure flavor will be at optimum best when baking treats for family and friends.

Perhaps you use homegrown herbs, such as sage in your Thanksgiving stuffing. Harvesting herbs at the correct time will make a difference in flavor. Herb leaves collected before they bloom impart the most flavor. As a mature herb plant redirects energy (and flavor) into flowering, away from plant leaves, harvest culinary herbs before flowering. This is as newer plant growth will impart the most chemical oils for flavoring, rather than using leaves from an older blooming plant.

However, some plants herb plants, such as dill, may be collected after flowering (think of dill pickles). This is as seeds from the dill mature plant impart a more pungent flavor rather than that from the foliage.

Herbs can not only be grown to enhance the landscape, but also to attract pollinators and for culinary use. To learn more on using savory spices, download the ISU publication at: https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/13985 for further information.

Did you know? What is the difference between herbs and spices? Herbs are harvested from a plant’s newer foliage top growth, while stronger flavored spices are those plant parts harvested underground roots or plant flowers, fruits, seeds or bark. Thus, spices are more potent and stronger flavored than herbs and usually used in smaller amounts for culinary purposes.

Gardening questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.


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