Saturday, January 03, 2009

It’s Not What You Think

What this post is all about

All photos except this one
by Beccano

I realize I haven’t been as faithful about posting to this blog as I should recently, but I finally have something interesting to write about that Suna hasn’t already written about better. Sigh.

Today, I learned a new application for an old skill. I was even able to use one of the same old tools.

It all started out innocently enough with me starting to clean out the garage after stuffing it full of by-products after Thanksgiving, the wedding, and Christmas. After moving the shredder out—BTW, I got the shredder running and finished demolishing the wood pile in the back yard. Now there’s only ongoing maintenance to use it for—I noticed the basil I had hung to dry.

So I interrupted my garage progress and brought the basil in to process. From the three plants I salvaged after an early freeze, I got an 18-24 month supply of dried basil and $10-$20 worth of seeds. I know the seeds are viable because volunteers were coming up in September.

Stripping the leaves and flowers is easier if you start at the end and strip toward the stem. I figured that out when I was mostly done.

Here’s final the process (I refined it as I went, so this doesn’t quite match the photos.):

  1. Lay an album cover—one that folds open—on flat work surface and place a colander on top of it.
  2. I supplemented the work surface with a large cutting board. The extra height makes it easier to pick up the album cover when you need to.

    I used A New Life by the Marshall Tucker Band. I don’t think any of these large Southern boys would mind their album being used to clean the seeds out of a food product, or anything else for that matter.

    OK, you don’t really have to use an album cover. Any bendable flat surface will do. You just need a stiff surface than can form a funnel when needed.

    I found that shaking the seeds onto an album cover or other light, stiff surface works best. The cutting board shown here provides too much friction.
  3. Strip some leaves and buds from a basil branch.
  4. I started out the wrong way, of course. It works much better if you start at the end of the branch and work back toward the stem. The leaves and flowers just fall off that way. Some people would not want the flowers in the final product, but I think they add more fragrance and flavor than just the leaves. They are…sweeter.

  5. When you have about two inches in the colander, shake the colander and allow the seeds to fall onto the album cover.
  6. You can use a coarse sieve if you have one with holes larges enough for the seeds to fall through. Some of the finer leaf product will also fall through the colander.

  7. Set the colander aside.
  8. I eventually put down another sheet of paper to catch any fallout while the colander was at rest.

    Keep tapping and lifting until most of the seeds roll free. As I worked I found it was better to let the seeds roll onto a piece of paper. It’s easier to use the paper as a funnel than to pick the seeds up on the knife.
  9. Lift the album cover to about a 30° angle, and tap it with the back of a wide blade knife.
  10. I found it was best to fold a sheet of paper to form a back stop and set the edge of the album cover on it. As you tap the album cover, the seeds fall faster than the leaf product. Keep tapping until the seeds run off onto the paper. If the leaf product approaches the edge before all of the seeds fall off, take the sharp edge of the knife and lift the mixture higher. Some of the seeds should roll off as you do so.

  11. Put the seeds in a container for later use.
  12. You can leave the leaf product on the album cover along with a few seeds.

    Crush the leaves and flowers between your hands.
  13. Lay the album cover flat on the work surface and place the colander back on it.
  14. Crush the remaining leave and flowers between you hands, letting the product fall back into the colander.
  15. This is my favorite part of the process. Your hands smell great!

    You are accomplishing a couple of things here. The pressure releases the seeds from the flowers and breaks the dried leaves into more usable chunks.

  16. Lift the album cover to about a 30° angle, and tap it with the back of a wide blade knife.
  17. Yes, this is a repeat of Step 5. The same guidelines apply. Just keep pushing the product back to the top of the album cover until it is as clean as you can make it.

  18. Place the seeds in your seed container and the cleaned leaf product in a separate storage container that will look good in your spice cabinet.
  19. If you grow your own, you know that fresh herb always tastes better than dried. The surprise is that home grown dried herbs taste better than store bought herbs. I actually prefer them to fresh herbs frozen in ice cubes.

  20. Repeat this whole procedure until all plants are processed

When I was done, the smaller stems went onto the compost pile. The larger ones went into the brush pile. Eventually, the larger pieces will all go into the shredder and become part of the bark mulch that helps keep my flower beds healthy.

No comments:

Post a Comment