Well, now it is mid August. Summer is all too quickly coming to an end, hopefully your home-grown herbs are robust and healthy. Now what? Well, I assume you want to be able to use the delightful flavors of summer all year round. Therefore, todays post is about ways for Preserving your Herbs at home. Freezing, drying, hanging in the sun, dry in the sun, and/or dry in the oven, it is all below for you! This information comes from our wonderful new friends at the Growers exchange. An all-natural online garden center that specializes in rare and traditional herbs for culinary, aromatic and medicinal use. They have been in business for over twenty years.. http://www.thegrowers-exchange.com. AND from the website of The Herb Companion - http://www.herbcompanion.com. (check them out, well worth your time.)
Caroline (at The Growers Exchange) tells us …”For preserving herbs, I’ve had great success with freezing them for later use, especially with Basil….When freezing, I just washed and chopped my Basil, added a little water to each cup of an empty ice-cube tray, then packed the chopped Basil into each cup and added more water. I’ve also heard of people coating the tray with olive oil to make them easier to remove, but once they freeze, you can just store them in a Tupperware container or freezer proof baggie (to make pesto or whatever you like, later in the season:) It retains the flavor longer and it’s super quick and easy to do!
I also found recently when I didn’t have time to plant two extra flats of Catnip, that clipping the plants at the base, drying them for a month, then shedding all the leaves into a Tupperware container to keep in the freezer works great. My cats actually enjoyed the dried version better than the fresh leaves. They didn’t even care when I brought the live plants in for them, but went nuts for the dried stuff!
For herbs like Stevia, you can extract the essential oils (in this case, the natural sweetener) and store it for later use in the fridge! Check out this blog as a reference on how to do so: http://theexchange.thegrowers-exchange.com/sweeten-your-life-naturally-with-stevia-extract/
We have lots of herbs that retain their scent better after drying or were used for specific purposes such as Costmary, which has very broad leaves and was placed in between pages of people’s bibles (giving it the common name, “Bible Leaf”) as its slight, minty scent kept pests away. Just one of the many little tidbits and facts I’ve learned from doing much of the research for our herbs.” – Thanks to Caroline for all that great info!
… on to a wonderful piece from THE HERB COMPANION – Ways to Dry your herbs.
“Preserve the flavors of your herb garden all year by using the ancient practice of drying.
Drying is believed to be the oldest form of food preservation. According to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, recently discovered food samples are believed to have been dried in Jericho about 4,000 years ago. Drying herbs removes excess water to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold—an easy and safe way to preserve herbs year-round.
Here are three ways to do it.
1. Hang Herbs to Dry
Hanging herbs to dry is probably the easiest method. This method works best with low-moisture herbs, such as dill, rosemary, summer savory and thyme. First, remove the lower leaves and gather four to six branches into bundles and tie them with a string. Then, place the bundles in a brown paper bag upside-down with the stems sticking out from the bag and tie. Next, punch holes in the bag to promote air circulation. In a dark, cool place, hang the bags for a few weeks.
2. Sun-dry Your Herbs
Sun-drying is another cost-effective way to dry herbs. Lay a towel on a hard, dry surface, such as a back porch or patio. Place the herbs on the towel while making sure the herbs are not touching each other. Bring the herbs inside at night to ensure the dryness of your herbs.
3. Dry Herbs in the Oven
Use the oven to dry herbs quickly and effectively. Place the leaves and stems of the herb on a flat baking sheet. Heat the oven to about 180 degrees and warm the herbs for two to three hours. Microwave ovens also may be used to dry herbs, although this method can cause herbs to dry too quickly and lose flavor. If you decide to try it, place the plant on a paper towel and microwave on high for about three minutes.
When to Harvest Your Herbs
Every herb, root and berry has a different peak time for harvesting. Here are a few tips:
• Leaves should be clipped before the flowers of the plant have opened. Leaves often are the most fragrant at this stage. Gather flowers such as lavender when the plant first starts to open.
• Roots should be collected in the fall after the plant has begun to die. However, dandelion roots should be collected in the early spring.
• Seeds should be gathered in the fall when the seed starts to ripen.
• Harvest berries as soon as they are ripe, which is usually mid-summer to early fall.”
( Check out the Herb Companion it is a beautiful publication! )