Jim Long is an herbalist and gardener in the Missouri Ozarks. You can see his herb garden on his garden blog, jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com, and his books can be found on his website LongCreekHerbs.com.

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Warming Herbs for Winter
by Jim Long       #Herbs   #Recipes   #Winter

Ever wonder why some herbs are popular in summer while others gain prominence in fall and winter? There are some very good reasons why we use mint, parsley, lavender and lemongrass in summer, and why sage, rosemary, thyme, hyssop and others are considered winter herbs.

It’s well known that cultures closest to the equator use more hot seasonings than people who live in colder regions. Mexican oregano with its hot, biting flavor, hot chilies, cumin and other similar hot herbs cause the body to sweat and are used to help the body cool down in hot climates. You won’t find those seasonings used in countries like Norway and Sweden, where summer heat isn’t as intense as in equatorial locations.

Easy Ways to Dry Herbs
To dry your own herbs, use a food dehydrator. Gather summer-growing herbs in midmorning, after the dew has evaporated but before the more intense heat of the day, for best flavor. Gather sprigs, 4 to 6 inches long, of each herb and lay them in a single layer in the dehydrator. Let the dehydrator run until the herbs are crisp and crumble easily — usually about 24 to 48 hours. When dried, run your thumb and finger down the length of each herb stem, catching the leaves in a bowl. Store those in an airtight container or zippered-plastic bag until ready to use.

Don’t have a food dehydrator? A really simple method is to put a good handful of herb sprigs in a brown paper grocery bag. Fold the bag closed and secure it with a clothespin or large paperclip. Put the bag in the trunk or back seat of your car and leave it. Every 2 or 3 days, give the bag a shake and return it to the car. The paper bag will wick away the moisture and the heat of the car will help the drying process. In about a week, or as soon as the herbs are dry, remove the stems and store in an airtight container.

Herbs that are considered “warming,” and therefore good for the cooler months, include hyssop, sage, fennel seed, horseradish, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, fenugreek and many more. Our appetites in summer don’t give us cravings for heavier foods like chicken soup, baked turkey or a pot of chili, but when the temperatures turn cool, those foods suddenly sound good to us.People of European descent become hungry in the fall for foods seasoned with the winter herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, which are all warming herbs. Baked goose, beef stew, pumpkin pie, spice cake — those herb combinations warm our bodies as well as our palates.

When I visited India a few years back, I learned Indian cooks pays more attention to seasonal herbs and spices than we do here in the United States. My hosts showed me various seasoning mixes, some created specifically for summer, their properties causing the body to cool, while the winter mixtures were meant to warm the body and retain heat. My friends explained that if you used a summer garam masala (a traditional Indian seasoning blend) in winter, for example, you would be chilly and uncomfortable.

If you ask most people what comes to mind when they hear the word “sage,” most will say the stuffing at Thanksgiving or possibly the seasoning in sausage. But sage is widely adaptable to foods like squash, beans, breads, muffins and game meats. It makes a soothing sore throat gargle and a warming, pleasant hot tea in winter.

Homemade Poultry Seasoning
Recipe from Great Herb Mixes. All the herbs are dried.

2 Tablespoons each: sage, parsley, celery leaf and marjoram
1 Tablespoon summer savory
1 Tablespoon thyme
2 teaspoons rosemary

Mix together and grind to a powder in a food processor or blender. Store the mix in an airtight container. Use 2 to 3 teaspoons for cooking a whole chicken, added in the last half hour of cooking time.

Fatty foods, which are more popular during the cooler months, combine well with the warming herbs. Roast goose, seldom cooked today, in the past was always seasoned with herbs that broke up and moderated the fat. Those include hyssop, garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme. Today we use those same herbs for roast or boiled chicken or turkey, pork dishes, soups and stews.

Thyme is generally used in combination with other warming flavors. It’s an important ingredient in poultry and sausage seasonings. Thyme is a winter sore throat gargle and works well in warming bath blends. Thyme is often blended with rosemary and sage in simmering stews.


A version of this article appeared in Missouri Gardener Volume 1 Number 5.
Photography courtesy of Jim Long.


Posted: 09/28/17   RSS | Print


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