Preserving Herbs

Photo: Caitlinator

Here’s an “herbal how-to” from who else but Herbdoc!

Those dried supermarket herbs in the spice aisle can cost a pretty penny, but preserving your own is easy, and in some cases, results in a tastier product than store bought.

There are many ways to preserve your herb harvest, but the easiest involves picking low moisture herbs and hanging them to dry.  Herbs should be picked in mid morning on a day which has low humidity and once the dew has dried.  If you attempt this process in the hot sticky weather, the herbs will rehydrate and mold will form.  Pick herbs before their flowers open because the oils are at their peak during this time.

Make a bouquet of four to six stems, removing the lower leaves to reveal the stalks.  I prefer to cover the bouquet with a paper bag to catch any dried leaves and to foil insects.  Tie the bag and stalks with twine and suspend in a warm, airy place.  Herbs should be dry in about two weeks.

Once dry, remove the leaves from the stalks, and store them in airtight labeled jars in a dark closet away from the stove/oven.  They should remain flavorful for about a year.

Some cooks advocate drying herbs in the oven on low temperature or in the microwave, but this is a risky proposition.  If the herbs are not watched constantly and get too hot, they end up with a scorched flavor, which is definitely not appetizing.

To dry seeds, gather the ripe flower heads and spread them out in a dry, dark airy space.  When they are fully dry, the can be shaken out of the flower heads or simply rubbed between your fingers.  Again, store your product in labeled jars in a dark closet.

Freezing herbs is another popular way of preservation.  After picking, brush the stems with a stiff paintbrush before removing the leaves from the stems.  Do not wash them. Put the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours.  Then pack as many as you think you’ll need for a single serving in saran packets and store in labeled freezer containers.  Hint:

Two to three teaspoons will serve four people.  Warning:  If you prefer your basil to be green, it is one of the few herbs that must be blanched.  To do this, put the leaves in a colander and quickly pour boiling water over them for one to two seconds.  Dry on paper towels before putting on the cookie sheet to freeze.  Frozen herbs retain their flavor for about 6 months.

Happy preserving!

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About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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8 Responses to Preserving Herbs

  1. cj wright says:

    Thanks for that tip about blanching basil. That’s a new one for me.

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  2. HerbDoc says:

    You’re welcome, CJ! If basil isn’t blanched before freezing, it turns black and isn’t very pretty!

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  3. Tatyana says:

    I needed this post! It’s time to dry my parsley. I have a whole raised bed of it! Thank you!

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  4. HerbDoc says:

    Parsley dries well with the bunching method, Tatyana. When you
    put the stems (leafy side down) in the bags, put some small holes in each bag. This speeds drying and keeps the air circulating.
    Good luck! You’re going to need a lot of bags! 🙂

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  5. Wendy says:

    What a lovely photo! this year I really wanted to try drying some lavender. When it was dry, i took a whiff and I smelled the same “scent” I did the last time I tried to dry some – cat pee.

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    • dirtynailz says:

      Mmmm… cat pee. Martha Stewart would be jealous!

      Maybe it’s the lavender species, Wendy. I have some in an antique pitcher on my coffee table right now, and it smells kind of like sweet dry hay.

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  6. HerbDoc says:

    DN is correct, Wendy. There are many, many varieties of lavender out there for sale. I prefer the L. officinalis (either spica or vera).
    Munstead Dawrf and Hidcote Purple which only grow 12-18 inches are good starters. The most important thing to remember if you want sweet smelling lavender is to grow it in full sun in a poor, gravelly soil. Growing them in rich soil results in that cat pee odor.

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