Harvest Those Herbs

You can check out any book on herbs and look up a section on drying herbs, and you will find maybe a page or two or three! That is because there is not to much "to-do" about herb drying, although it is different from plant to plant. You want to choose your herbs when they are just about to flower, when buds have formed but not opened. Gather them in the morning before the sun hits them, but yet after the dew has dried. Pick only the tips of the plant (about 2-3 feet is good) keeping your plant is good shape, and thus producing more branches for later harvesting.

The old-fashioned way of drying herbs is to just hang bunches of each different type in a warm spot, or near a heat source (like the pot-bellied stove or in a window). Although this is a cute way of displaying herbs (and flowers), it is not the best way for they become dusty and may loose their flavor over a period of time. If you choose to hang your herbs to dry, make small bunches and rubber band them at the top and place them in a brown paper bag and secure at top. Hang until herbs are dry. Herbs are dry when they crumble off the stem. After crumbling off stem, place in a lidded dark colored jar for up to one year. You want to use a dark jar because light causes the herbs to fade and loose flavor.

Oven drying is one of the more efficient way to dry your herbs. Place your herbs on a cookie sheet in a thin layer and place in a very low setting oven. If your herbs are turning brown, then the oven temp is still to high. If you are drying your herbs in a humid condition, then stir your herbs a bit until they are dry and for the first few hours of the drying process, have the temp up a tad bit.

Freezing herbs is my own favorite way of keeping my herbs. It seems to retain the flavor better and I never have had any herbs turn moldy on me! I take and place the herbs on a cookie sheet and place in freezer just long enough for the plants to freeze. Then I place them into plastic storage bags until further use. By freezing them flat and then placing into bags, the herbs are "separated", so I can just use the amount I need at the time. If the herbs were just placed in a bag together, they would freeze together making it harder for separation. Some herbs that keep better by freezing are the basils, chervil, dill leaves, chopped chives, lemon verbena leaves, scented geranium leaves, tarragon, rose petals, and spearmint. Another way to freeze your herbs for cooking is by making herb butters. These butters can be a mixer of herbs or one herb. You can also make herb ice cubes to be added to your cooking later.

Microwave preserving is one that I would not recommend for it has a tendency to burn the leaves and "cook" the flavor from the herbs. Some would say it is because I don't do it right and the are most likely to be right! I think that the watts of my microwave are to high and I can't get them lower! The way I have done it is placing them herbs on the turntable and setting the microwave on the lowest setting possible for your own machine. Let it go for about 3-4 minutes. This will vary according to each microwave and by how much you are drying at a time. So, keep checking, and when they are dry, process storing like mentioned above.

Remember to check your stock over the year for freshness of your herbs. If they smell moldy or look moldy, pitch them. And remember that you will have a new stock source in a year, so get rid of the old and put in the new! Good luck with your herb preserving! It is really very easy!

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License