Herbs that dry well:

basil
scented geranium leaves
lavender
lemon balm
lemon verbena
lemon grass
sweet marjoram
oregano
mint
parsley
Italian parsley
Sage
St. Johnís wort
Thyme

Herbs that freeze well:

basil
dill

lemon balm
sweet marjoram
mint
oregano
parsley
rosemary
sage
tarragon
thyme
lemon verbena
chives
coriander

Herbs that both dry and freeze well:

basil
lemon balm
sweet marjoram
parsley
oregano
rosemary
mint
sage
thyme
tarragon

 

Harvesting

Preserving by Drying—I'm talking about drying the leaves of the herbs here, which is the part of the plant that is most often preserved in this way. Most herbs dry well. That means that the herb does not lose it's color, flavor, and aroma. There are a few that I never dry. Chives lose their taste. I don't freeze chives either because they are chewy when frozen. They are so easy to bring inside and taste so good fresh! Just make sure that you leave them outside to freeze before you bring them in. Dill dries just so-so. It loses flavor, in my opinion. I never dry cilantro.

I use two methods depending on how humid it is when I want to harvest:

Method #1: After picking, I hang the stems with leaves upside down or I put the leaves on a screen in a place out of the sun. You need to make sure there is good ventilation and low humidity to make this work well. When the leaves are crispy and crackly to the touch, they're dry. They need to be completely dry or they'll get moldy when you put them in storage. For herb seeds like coriander, hang bunches of seed stems in a bag to catch the seed. Dry in a warm, dark place with excellent air circulation.

Method #2: In the dog days of summer when the air is thick or when it's been raining a lot, I use the oven for drying. I spread the leaves out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and bake them for 48 to 72 hours. If the stove is gas, the pilot light will keep the temperature hot enough. If you have an electric stove, put it on its lowest setting. Turn the herbs twice a day. Yes, it takes a long time, but a hotter temperature will dry the leaves too quickly and all the oils will be lost.

Storing Dried Herbs—The most important aspect of the drying is the storing. Never, and I mean never, crumble the leaves before you put them away. The less surface area exposed to the air, the better the herb will retain the oils you are trying to preserve. When you know they're crispy dry, strip them from the stems and store in air-tight containers in a cool, dry, dark place, and they'll keep their strength for about a year. Never store in sunlight.

Preserving by Freezing—This is easy. Just snip small pieces of the herbs and place in a zip-lock bag. Don't do anything fancy to them like blanching before you put them in the bags. They'll be good for about a year. If you prefer, puree the leaves in a blender with a little water to liquefy them. Freeze them in an ice cube maker and store them in freezer bags. For basil, I have a special way so it'll keep its color. I blend the leaves in a blender (you can use a food processor too) with a little olive oil. I pack the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. When they're hard as a rock, I pop them out of the trays and put them in a freezer bag and freeze them that way. I've learned the hard way never to freeze pesto with the garlic in it. It becomes really bitter.

Done

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