This time of year it's usually a battle to keep my herbs from going to seed. We all know herbs like basil produce more and bigger leaves if you can slow the march toward flower and seed formation. But sometimes it's best to work with nature, instead of against it. Some herbs, such has dill, fennel and cilantro, produce seeds that are not only edible, but desirable. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander, a favorite in Indian and other ethnic dishes. Dill seed is used in cooking and to make pickles, while fennel seeds are used in teas, breads and soups and it a good digestive. I sometimes eat a small handful of raw fennel seeds to soothe an upset tummy.
Plus, these flower and seed heads are favorites of a multitude of beneficial insects. It's good for your garden ecology, too. So let some herbs go to seed and start collecting. Here's how.
The key with collecting the seeds is to be ready to catch the seeds before they fall. Select the healthiest looking herb plants with the biggest heads. Once the flowers have faded and the green seeds turn brown, cover the seed head with a paper bag and cut the stalk below the bag. Bring the bag indoors, poke a few holes in it for ventilation and as they seeds dry and mature they will drop off the flower head. Shake the bag periodically to accelerate this process.
Once you have a bag of seeds, let them dry in a dark, airy, warm location out of direct sun for a week or so, then store them in glass jars at room temperature. They usually hold their flavor for months.
And now for this week's tip, got extra sunflower heads in the garden? Why not eat them. Cut the unopened sunflower head just below the bloom, peel off the thick bottom leaves and steam it you would a globe artichoke. You and your friends will be amazed as the sunflowery-artichokey flavor.
Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about selecting trees and shrubs at a nursery Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.
Broadcast on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.
The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and Gardeners.com