I find fresh herbs irresistible don't you? Every spring, I love to plant them here and there between flowers and vegetables, every summer I love to snip them and use them in recipes and teas, and every fall I like to preserve whats left of them. They are well worth any effort to grow them to have them fresh at hand or preserved for recipes, teas and potpourri. Many times I have bought fresh parsley for a recipe, only to end up with way more than I could use up, so I would dry that as well, and add it to my parsley jar. The two main ways I have preserved herbs, is by drying, and freezing. I did a little post a while back about blending them in Olive oil, and freezing them in ice cubes. That is a really nice way to keep that fresh flavor and aroma intact… particularly with basil. The flavor and aroma is much better in your own homegrown herbs than you will ever get from the spice section in the grocery store, and cost only the price of the seed, which is almost nothing, especially when you see the prices of herbs and spices in the store. Another thing that is nice, is to make gifts of them for Christmas, birthdays or house warming. Put them in vinegar or oil, potpourri or just dried in jars. I have a couple of spice recipe mixes that are yummy, and you can invent any of your own.
Drying them takes just a few steps and a little waiting; you don't need any special tools; and for most herbs, you don't even need a dehydrator. Here's how:
- According to Mother Earth News, it is best to harvest your herbs in early to mid-morning before the newly developed essential oils have been burned off by the sun, but after any dew has dried.
- Its nice to take a basket and a pair of scissors and snip all that you want at one time.
- If you harvest herbs for their seeds, its best to wait until the seeds are turning brown and hardening; some seeds can be harvested before they are fully brown and used fresh, such as I have sometimes done with coriander.
- If you are using organic well composted soil, you won't need to worry about washing them, unless you want to; just dry them well on a paper towel and begin.
- Snip all stems from leaves or flowers with a pair of scissors.
- Lay them out on and clean screen (I used a well scrubbed old window screen this time around) or a cookie sheet lined with paper towel or parchment paper… I have used all three of these methods, and they all work fine.
- Spread them out so that the air can get over and under them.
- Allow to airdry 2 - 6 days (each herb has a different amount of water in their leaves, so drying time will vary), or when dry to the touch.
- Label jars, and put your herbs in and you are ready.
- If you are drying seeds, such as dill, coriander, etc. place the plant head with the seeds into a paper bag, tie the top of the paper bag and place or hang where it can dry thoroughly. Once dry, the seeds will fall off of the flower or plant heads and collect nicely in the bottom of the paper bag.
Coriander (these are the seeds of the Cilantro plant).
Cat Mint (Cat Nip)
Snip the stems off of the herb leaves and flowers.
Spread the leaves or flower heads out onto a screen or dry surface where air can circulate.
Allow to dry for two - six days.
Label jars and place dry herbs into jar and seal.
I store the herbs as whole leaves, and crush them when I need them either with a pestle and mortar or
between my fingers. It seems to me the more whole they remain in storage, the more their flavor will remain intact.
Have a great week everyone