If you have spent a lot of time growing fresh herbs in your garden then you probably want to use them all year round. With winter approaching, now is the time to get those herbs ready for the long haul. To begin with, you need to know a little about what you are preserving. Herbs are not all the same, or react to each method equally. While rosemary will stay green after drying, basil will turn brown. Also, some of our favorite herbs such as thyme, grow back each year so prune the thyme and let it grow out the next season. Other perennials that grow back are parsley, mint and rosemary. For the one year and done plants, let’s talk about methods for preserving them.
Drying your herbs
A tip to start out with, make sure your herbs are totally dry before you package them up. If they have moisture then mold can form. You can use a moisture-absorbing packet bought at the store or perhaps a small amount of rice to help your herbs last longer.
The key to drying your herbs successfully is to make sure there is good airflow as well as the herb stick, stems and leaves not touching each other, spread them out. Good pans to use would be a wire rack placed on top of a cookie sheet, or something with holes in it.
There are many ways to dry herbs listed below:
Lay them out in the freezer on a cookie sheet or in a bag. Remove them from the bag after freezing and use the leaves as necessary in your cooking. Flat leaf herbs can be packed in a bag and rolled before freezing, cut off from the frozen leaves as needed.
Common practice for the herbs that turn brown (remember basil), freeze them in oil or broth in ice cube trays. Cut up the leaves and pulse them in oil, broth or water before filling the trays.
- Around the House
There are probably hot places in your house that the herbs can dry naturally. Near a heater vent, on your car dashboard, or in front of a sunny window might work perfectly. They can also be hung in a drying rack that can be bought, which provides good circulation.
Set the oven to the lowest it will go, lay the herbs on a rack placed on top of a cookie sheet. Check frequently and when dry remove your herbs. Remove their stems and crush the leaves before putting in an airtight container.
This is a great way to dry your herbs and maintain the flavor. Similar to drying in an oven follow the directions that came with the product. Sometimes when drying in the oven a herb may become cooked, dehydrators remove that issue.
When to Harvest
The best time to harvest is late summer, early fall. The flowers diminish the taste of the herb so all should be harvested before they flower. If you use your herbs throughout the summer flowers will not be a problem. Pick the herbs in mid-morning so the heat has not wilted them yet.
What Herbs should you dry?
Rosemary, oregano, thyme, sweet savory, and dill, to name a few, are easily dried with any of the methods above.
Basil, chives and mint should be dried in a dehydrator or through freezing. To avoid color changes consider freezing in oil or water making ice cubes. Use the dried herbs within one year for the best flavor.
The final option is to grow a winter garden. Put the pots near a window, get a kit and have fresh herbs all year round.