Wednesday, October 26, 2011
How Much Does a Garden Grow: Herbs
As the summer gardening season winds down, and we are about to strike a total on how much the garden grew (we still have leeks and peppers finishing up outside), it is time to consider herbs. This is where the garden really gets some bang for its buck.
Herbs are a tricky thing to measure. As I stated at the outset, I didn't weigh most of them, but I'm going to do a rough tally of how many store-jar-sized amounts I used and/or dried for winter use. For many of the plants, this will be an underestimate, because the plant would in most cases have given even more than I harvested. However, with herbs, I try to harvest enough to use myself and to share with family and friends. I am comparing to organic dried herbs available from my local Meijer, except for some specialty crops for which I got prices on the internet.
Many plants are also perennial, so there was no investment in the plant this year in some cases. For others, my local greenhouse had a price of $3.29 per plant.
Dill: I love dill. It goes in pickles in the years that we put dill pickles up, and it goes in my cheesy potato soup. It is hard to dry enough dill to get me through the year, but I put up about one jar worth. My dill grows from seeds that I gather each year, so no up front cost. Store price: $3.39/jar. Profit: $3.39
Basil: Strange basil year. I put in two Genovese basil plants, and I lost one to wilt. Nonetheless, I did put up two half-pints of frozen basil in oil, which I use to make pesto. I prefer this to the dried variety, and I have some dried left from a prior year for applications that need it. I will estimate that my one plant gave me about three jars' worth of basil, counting that I used this summer. Store price: $3.19/jar x 3. Plant cost: $3.29. Profit: $6.28
Sage: I can't believe I used to pull the sage plants out at the end of the season and buy new ones each year! My sage bushes have been growing for three years now, and they give far more sage than I can use -- and I use a lot. I probably use at least three jars' worth, and I will give my mother at least two. Sage is expensive at the store, too, at a price of $5.79 per jar. Profit: $28.95
Coriander: My cilantro and coriander (coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, if you didn't realize this) reseeds itself each year. We never use as much cilantro as is available, but we do use it to make several Latin American-inspired meals in the spring, plus we put up some coriander for use in making sausage in winter. Let's say the whole thing was one jar's worth. Profit: $3.19
Marjoram: I bought a marjoram plant last year on a lark, and I find that I like it in pot roasts and in sausage. I dried about 2 jars' worth this year, with no plant cost. Store price: $3.39/jar x2. Profit: 6.78
Rosemary: My rosemary bush is alive and thriving in my front window, giving me all the rosemary I could possibly use year round. I like rosemary in potatoes, and I may use a jar's worth over the course of the year. Profit: 3.19
Thyme: Bad pun, but I literally never have enough thyme. I purchased one plant this year to compliment the two or three I already had growing in a pot. I dry as much as I can, but it doesn't add up to much. Perhaps one jar worth over the course of the year, but I love it. Store price: $3.39/jar. Plant cost: $3.29. Profit: $0.10
Oregano: Like my marjoram, my oregano plants are perennial, but I put in new plants this year of a variety I like better than my old plants. I put up about two jars of dried oregano flowers. Store cost: $3.39/jar x 2. Plant cost: $3.29 x 2. Profit: $0.20
Feverfew: Feverfew also comes back each year, and thank heavens, because it is my secret weapon against my headaches. I'll keep the plants going as long as I can before they die back and go dormant, and I will probably try to bring one inside. Organic feverfew capsules are $10.89 for 90 days. I try to take feverfew year round, but it is hard to estimate how much fresh plant is equivalent to the dried herb, so I will pretend I replaced one bottle's worth. Profit: $10.89
Lavender: Finally, lavender. Some people use this in cooking, but I use it primarily as a potpourri. I love to put some in the powder room in the winter to remind me that summer is coming. I dried an ounce, which is equivalent to $1.37 online. Profit: $1.37
Our lesson here? Grow other crops to take care of prepping and independent living needs, so definitely get proficient with growing potatoes, squashes, beans, and tomatoes. But if you are gardening purely to save yourself money (and flavor all of those potatoes and beans!), you need to grow herbs.
Herb Total: $64.34 (And, just for giggles, let's call that a pound of herbs.)
2011 Tally to Date: 121.31 lbs of crops; $253.71 saved