Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Home-grown catnip: How to dry and cure your harvest

Catnip drying on a rack in a basement
Isn't my basement glamorous?
As faithful readers know, I started growing catnip about a year ago. I bought one tiny packet of seeds for about $2, and hoped that I would have one stalk to give to my cats at the end of the growing season. Turns out, I set my goals a little low. I'm happy to report that I've harvested my catnip plants twice now, and each harvest produces about 6 months of treats. Looks like this was $2 well spent!

I know many of you are wondering why in the world I would grow my own catnip when it's so cheap. Whole Foods, for example, sells a tub of catnip for about $5. All I can say is that I have my reasons.

The plants aren't particularly beautiful, but they do put off a spicy, sweet scent that's quite pleasant. I also like the idea of growing the plants my cats will eat, as I'm sure it's grown with no pesticides or chemicals. To me, this is reassurance that is well worth the effort. And, let's face it, I'm cheap. Why spend $5 every 6 months when I can spend $2 once per year? In fact, if these plants keep on producing, I may never have to buy another tub again! Ha!

The most annoying part of this process, however, is the harvesting. It takes a long time to accomplish, and as you can see, it's not a terribly beautiful process.

I cut the stems back to an inch above the soil, and bundle two or three stems with twist ties. Then, I hang the bundles from a hanger in the basement, next to the duct work for the furnace and the hot water heater. This is a hot, dry part of the basement, and this is just the right sort of air to help the catnip dry. Even so, it often takes 6 to 8 weeks for the stems to completely shrivel. When the stems and leaves are dry, I run them through a spice mill until the pieces are fine.

This is just the sort of sprinkle my cats expect to see on their cat trees after their weekly grooming sessions, and I'm happy to provide it!