How to Preserve Fresh Herbs

Don’t let your home-grown herbs go to waste. Learn how to preserve fresh herbs with these simple strategies.


| September/October 2014



Drying Herbs

Many herbs dry easily for use as cooking spices. Store fully dried herbs whole to retain best flavor.


Photo by iStock

Herbs are amazing garden crops. Expensive to buy but cheap and easy to grow, herbs are useful in just about any dish, provide a huge array of health benefits and can be preserved in numerous ways. Use our tips to keep your homegrown herbs on hand all year.

Harvesting Tips: Success Begins in the Garden

The longer after their peak you wait to harvest most herbs, the less flavor they will have. The right time
varies by plant part.

Foliage: Pick when plant is beginning to form buds.  
Flowers: Pick when blooms are newly opened.
All parts: Pick in the morning on a sunny day when plants have dried but before the hottest part of the day, which can affect the plants’ essential oil concentrations.

Drying Herbs

Bundling Herbs
• Best for quick-drying, tougher herbs such as mints (except apple mint), rosemary, thyme and sage

• Use rubber bands to secure 12 to 15 stems into a bundle.

• Hang in a cool, airy room away from direct sunlight.

onesong
10/9/2015 12:50:56 PM

Tried everything to preserve basil. Last year almost none made it except what I had made into pesto and frozen. It was excellent through the winter. This year, I tried dehydrating in a professional dryer and had a decent yield that did not turn black. I pulled leaves from the stem and it took 3 days. Basil is challenging. Have frozen in ice cube trays with olive oil as JulieB said. Midwest here too, thyme I trim all through the season and just lay loosely on a screen to dry. Lavender we harvest as it blooms in the early summer-no experience with trying it now w/out flowers. Calendula on screens, sage/Melissa/anise hyssop tied in bunches out of the sun in a dry place. If space is limited old fashioned folding men's tie racks works well for tied bunches.


hoopergal
10/7/2015 9:50:31 AM

In the past, as soon as I picked basil from my garden, it would turn black. But, I never figured out why. I am container gardening this year and the basil is good when dried. However, I decided to put some in olive oil to make flavored oil, and it turned black. Not sure if oil is spoiled now. Also, wish I had read about the parsley sooner. It's in bundles hanging in my pantry. Hopefully, I can find some screen in the shed. And, I just clipped some thyme and am hanging it. What about lavender leaves and stems? I don't have any flowers on my plant and wondering if I can still dry the leaves. BTW, perfect timing for this article as the midwest is starting to chill.


crw
8/25/2014 6:01:29 PM

@JulieB Do you dry them in a cool and dark place? I can't imagine why they would turn black, but that's how we dry ours and they come out fine.


julieb
8/15/2014 2:40:47 PM

I have never had luck drying basil. It turns black immediately. The only method that has worked for me is to put it in a blender with a little olive oil then freeze it in little containers. I use the small paper dixie cups, stack them after freezing then I put the stack in a plastic bag. If anyone has a method of drying that won't turn them black I would love to know. all my other herbs dry beautifully. Julie






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