Q I grew several kinds of herbs in my garden this summer. What do I do with them now to keep them for future use?
A. Specialists say the herbs can be harvested and dried, salted or frozen for use all winter. To dry them, expose them to warm, dry air that circulates freely. This air absorbs moisture and prevents the escape of precious oils from the leaves. They may be dried on screens, trays or newspapers in a warm, dry attic if they are turned every few days to insure unifrom drying. If the drying is done outside, the leaves should be protected from direct sunlight and brought in at night to avoid dew.
Long-stemmed herbs should be rinsed in cool water, their ends tied together and hung upside down in a warm dry room in such a position that air can circulate about them.
Within two weeks the herbs should be ready for storage. Use tightly closed jars to keep them well.
A few herbs do not dry well and retain their flavor best when packed in salt or frozen. This includes basil, fennel, dill, chives and burnet.
Rinse basil: dry the leaves and pick them from the stem. Pour a layer of non-iodized salt in a jar and add a layer of leaves, then another layer of salt. When the jar is filled, press the leaves down firmly, cover and store in a dark place.
When you use salted leaves in cooking, remember either to rinse them well or allow for the extra salt in your recipe.
Fennell, burnet, dill, tarragon, chives and parsley are tender herbs that may be frozen as vegetables are frozen.
Leaves foliage on the stems, tie a string around them and blanch in unsalted water about 50 seconds. Then dip them in cold water for a few minutes. Remove leaves from stems and put them into freezer bags or foil.
Q. Can I use plastic film to protect my evergreens this winter?
A.If you mean enclosing a shrub or small tree in clear plastic like a liittle greenhouse, forget it. These little tnets of plastic can kill a plant deader than any January wind. The plastic tent acts like a greenhouse during a sunny day and the plant inside may even start new tender growth. And disaster is sure to follow.
What you need to do is protect the plant from wind and sun. A windbreak on the breezy side will protect drying out from the wind, and some sort of shape on the sunny side will keep the plant from getting too warm.
Do this and mulch your plants well with coarse materials such as wood chips or leaves and you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're protecting your plants the best you can.
Q. What are the best Camelia Japonicas for the Washington area?
A. According to people at the National Arboretum, these are among the most proven and highly cold-resistant and are highly recommended:
Berenice Boddy - light pink, semi-double, vigorous upright grouwht, medium height.
Donckelarii - red, marble white, semi-double, vigorous upright growth, rather large.
Finlandia - white, semi-doublw with swirled and fluted petals, compact growth, medium size.
Governor Mouton - bright red, sometime sblotched white, semi-double to loose peony form, vigorous spreading growth, medium hieght.
Iwane - rose red, mottled white, semi-double, slow compact growth, medium height.
Lady Vansittart - white-striped rose pink, semi-double, compact growth with holly-like foliage, medium height.
Rev. John Drayton - light pink, semi-double to loose peony form, vigorous compact growth, medium height.
White Queen - white, semi-double, vigorous upright growth, rather large.