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Herbs are invaluable to tasty dishes. Homegrown herbs are much more flavorful and aromatic than store-bought herbs. In fact, they are sometimes 3 to 4 times stronger than store-bought herbs. Check out my 6 ways to preserve herbs below. If you are just starting out herb gardening, check out my “Brown Thumb’s Guide for Starting an Herb Garden

Not only will you save money on not buying herbs, when you grow them yourself, but you can use less in your cooking because they’re much more powerful. Use about a 1/4 of the amount a recipe calls for instead. If you want to grow herbs you need to understand how to preserve them. Preserving herbs is a pretty easy task.

Not all herbs can be preserved the same way. Some methods will work for one herb, while it won’t work for another.

How to Preserve Herbs Properly

First, start by cutting a couple of healthy stems just above a leaf or pair of leaves., if your plant is large enough. Leave 4-6 inches to leave room for more growth. If your plant is small you can sustainably harvest 1 or 2 leaves off of each stem, instead of cutting long stems.

  • Shake off the bugs, if there are any.
  • Rinse in cool water, and dry thoroughly.
  • Choose your preservation method below.

6 Ways to Preserve Herbs

  1. Bundle air drying – You can air dry bundles (using something like this) Gather about 10 stems of the herbs. I like to tie mine up with twine. If you don’t want to buy a rack you can place them in a paper bag, with holes punched in it. The reason for the bag is so that is when leaves fall off, they fall into the bag. Hang them to dry for 1-2 weeks. You’ll know they are done drying, when the leaves are no longer soft to the touch and are crisper. Make sure they are fully dry before storing them. If you store too soon, they could mold due to having moisture still in them. You can remove the leaves from the stems (I love this especially for thyme) and place them in an airtight container and place the container away from light.
  2. Herbs that can be bundle air-dried: Rosemary, lavender, dill, summer savory, sage, thyme, bay leaves, and oregano. Herbs with higher moisture content can be hung to dry in smaller bundles, these would include, basil, oregano, tarragon, and lemon balm.


    Come see the basics of preserving herbs. 6 Ways to Preserve Herbs. Homegrown herbs are 3 to 4 times stronger than store bought herbs! | Homestead Wishing, Author, Kristi Wheeler | http://homesteadwishing.com/ways-to-preserve-herbs/ | preserving-herbs, food-preservation, how-to-preserve-herbs |



  3. Air Drying – No bundle, this is for single leaves. On a cookie sheet place a paper towel/clean dish towel, down and then a single layer of herbs. Layer up to five times between paper towels this way. Cover with another paper towel or clean dish towel. Allow to air dry for several days. You can also place in the oven with only the oven light on. You’ll know they are done drying, when the leaves are no longer soft to the touch and are crisper. Make sure they are fully dry before storing them. If you store too soon, they could mold due to having moisture still in them. You can remove the leaves from the stems (I love this especially for thyme) and place them in an airtight container and place the container away from light.
    Herbs that can be air-dried: Rosemary, lavender, dill, summer savory, sage, thyme, bay leaves, and oregano, basil, oregano.


    Come see the basics of preserving herbs. 6 Ways to Preserve Herbs. Homegrown herbs are 3 to 4 times stronger than store bought herbs! | Homestead Wishing, Author, Kristi Wheeler | http://homesteadwishing.com/ways-to-preserve-herbs/ | preserving-herbs, food-preservation, how-to-preserve-herbs |



    Oven Drying – Set the oven to the lowest setting. Place the herbs, flat on a cookie sheet in one layer, and place in the middle rack of the oven for 2-3 hours. You’ll know they are done drying, when the leaves are no longer soft to the touch and are crisper. Make sure they are fully drying before storing them. If you store too soon, they could mold due to having moisture still in them. You can remove the leaves from the stems (I love this especially for thyme) and place them in an airtight container and place the container away from light.
    Herbs are good for oven drying: Mint, basil, tarragon, and lemon balm.
  4. Dehydrator – My favorite method (I have an Excalibur). For basil, sage and other large leafy herbs, I harvest a couple of leaves. With rosemary, thyme, curry and any other herb that has small leaves,  I harvest the first 3-4 inches off a couple of stems. It’s easier to leave small leaves on the stem while dehydrating. They come off much easier when they are dry.  Set the dehydrator to the correct setting, and it drys for 4-6 hours, sometimes more. For basil, I always have to turn up the temperature, it seems to have a lot of moisture. It seems to dry much easier for the air-drying method for single leaves.
    Herbs good for dehydrator drying: Mint, Rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, dill, oregano, basil, tarragon, and lemon balm.


    Come see the basics of preserving herbs. 6 Ways to Preserve Herbs. Homegrown herbs are 3 to 4 times stronger than store bought herbs! | Homestead Wishing, Author, Kristi Wheeler | http://homesteadwishing.com/ways-to-preserve-herbs/ | preserving-herbs, food-preservation, how-to-preserve-herbs |



  5. Herbal Ice Cubes – Tender leaves are best for making these action-packed ice cubes (these are some great ice cubes tray to use). These cubes can be thrown into soups, stews, pasta, marinara, casseroles, eggs, frittata, and many more. Finely chop up herbs that you would like to use (about 1/4 cup,) and about 1/2 cup olive oil. Fill the trays and pop into the freezer for a spell. Once they are frozen, you can pop them out of the ice cubes trays, and place them in a plastic zip bag.
    Tender herbs great to use for herbal ice cubes include: basil, dill, cilantro, tarragon, and oregano.


    Come see the basics of preserving herbs. 6 Ways to Preserve Herbs. Homegrown herbs are 3 to 4 times stronger than store bought herbs! | Homestead Wishing, Author, Kristi Wheeler | http://homesteadwishing.com/ways-to-preserve-herbs/ | preserving-herbs, food-preservation, how-to-preserve-herbs |


  6. Freezing Herbs – In a single layer lay individual leaves on a cookie sheet. When frozen place them in a plastic zip bag and place back into the freezer. These herbs do well for freezing: basil, chives, dill, lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme.
Goods Shop by Herbal Academy – botanically inspired products

Tips and Tricks For Preserving Herbs

  • Leave the herbs whole when storing. Crush them with a mortar & pestle or just crush them with your fingers just before using them in your recipe.
  • Add herbs to soups, in the last 30 minutes of cooking, to preserve more of the flavor.
  • Don’t use the sun to dry the herbs, low and slow is the goal of preserving the powerful oils, flavors, and aroma! The sun is far too powerful to dry them low and slow.
  • The best time to harvest is in the morning, but after the dew has gone.
  • Harvest herbs just before the flowers first open.
  • Use frozen herbs just as you would use fresh herbs.
  • If you live in a location with high humidity, it is better to dry individual leaves instead of the entire stem.
  • Air movement is important when drying herbs, that is one reason why dehydrators are so popular for drying herbs.

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Resources*

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry/herbs.html]

http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/safe-methods/drying-herbs