How to preserve your own herbs

When to harvest herbs

Harvest fresh herbs after the morning dew has evaporated, but before the plants dry out from mid-day heat. Leaves will produce less once the plant has flowered, so harvest before flowering or continue to remove the flowers for longer herb leaf production. You can make your herbs last longer once they’re harvested by putting them in a glass of water on the counter or in the fridge, trimming the stems regularly, just as you would with flowers.

How to preserve fresh herbs

There’s no need to wash fresh herbs unless they are visibly dirty. If they do need a rinse, be sure to lay them out on a kitchen towel until dry. Remove any dead leaves and choose one of the preservation methods below:

Freezing. Add chopped herbs to ice cube trays and cover the herbs with water or oil. Once frozen, store the cubes in a plastic bag in the freezer to use in soups, stews, and other meals. You can also freeze individual leaves on a baking sheet; once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and add to meals throughout the year.

Air drying. Tie loose bunches of 4-5 stems together with string. If desired, place the herbs into a small paper bag with the stems sticking out and punch holes in the bag for ventilation; the bag will keep the dust out and any leaves that fall off will be caught. Hang the herb bunches or bags in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. It may take up to one month for the herbs to completely dry.

Oven drying. Set your oven at the lowest temperature (90⁰-110⁰) and leave the oven door slightly open. Place herbs on a baking sheet and heat for 3-4 hours, checking often and turning larger leaves to help them dry evenly.

Tray drying. Buy or make a simple frame with a wire screen attached to the bottom. Remove large leaves from the stems (i.e. mint, sage) or use short stemmed herbs (dill, fennel). Place herbs on the wire rack in a single layer and dry in a warm area out of direct sunlight, turning occasionally to dry evenly. You may need to place a light towel beneath smaller herbs to keep them from falling through the screen.

Dehydrating. Dehydrators are fairly inexpensive and can be used to dry herbs, fruit, and veggies. Each dehydrator has specific instructions based on its structure.

How to store dried herbs

Once dried, store whole leaves in sealed containers, jars, or storage bags. If your storage container is clear, make sure to keep your dried herbs out of direct sunlight; brown glass jars are a good option if your storage area is exposed to sunlight. Keep the leaves whole if possible, and crumble them as you need them; whole leaves will retain flavor longer.