Culinary herbs are among the hottest trends in gardening. They also are popular among families who preserve fresh foods for later use.
Nearly 70 percent of home canners are growing herbs, second only to tomatoes, said Lauren Devine-Hager, a product research and test-kitchen scientist with Jarden Home Brands, which manufactures the classic Ball home-canning Mason jars.
“At least a third of them dry and store their herbs,” she said.
Jarden is paying more attention to that fast-emerging market by developing new recipes, new methods of preservation, and new products for short- and long-term storage, Devine-Hager said.
“When we ask people what herbs they’re growing, they tell us No. 1 is basil, followed by chives, cilantro and dill,” she said. “These are all great for adding flavor to meals without using much, if any, salt.”
People also are using herbs in ways they haven’t traditionally been used, said Daniel Gasteiger, author of “Yes You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too” (Cool Springs Press, 2011).
“We’re seeing a lot of infusions and mixology,” said Gasteiger, from Lewisburg, Pa. “People are getting into herb-mixed drinks. I use vodka infused with herbs and garlic to flavor things like Dijon mustard and creamed noodles. You put a flambe on it to burn off the alcohol, and it leaves the essence of the herbs behind.”
Herbal innovation also is becoming more noticeable at farmers markets, he said. “I’ve seen lots of herb jellies being sold. Fennel, thyme, rosemary and lavender.”
Moreover, there has been a surge in the sale of food dehydrators — electrical devices that remove moisture from foods to aid in preservation.
“Many people just want to know what’s in their food,” said Meagan Bradley, a vice president of marketing for The Legacy Companies, which markets the Excalibur line of dehydrators. “They’re using their own herbs and dehydrating — making seasonings by grinding it up.”