Fresh Herb Plants
Key to Preserving Fresh Herb Plants
It has been said that all good things must come to an end, and this is especially true of our summer gardens. Most plants will not survive the cold, frosty days of winter, which is why harvesting and preserving our crops must be done as the cold weather begins to loom.
This is also true of our herb plants, but don't wait until there's a nip in the air to begin harvesting this crop. When herbs are dried properly, they can bring you months of delicious flavors throughout the fall and winter.
When to Harvest Herb Plants
The best time to harvest your herb plants is prior to flowering, which will frequently occur when the weather begins to cool in the fall.
Therefore, harvesting in late summer will ensure the best flavor and freshness to your herbs, but you can also harvest throughout the growing season to stimulate additional growth and get a jump start on your stock.
Cut your stems in the mid-morning hours when possible, since the morning dew has dried out by then but the fresh herb plants have not yet begun to wilt in the afternoon sun.
Air Drying Herbs
The air drying process works best with herb plants that have a lower moisture content like oregano, summer savory, thyme, rosemary and dill. Herbs with a higher moisture content will dry better using a dehydrator.
To air dry herb plants, cut the stems and remove any unhealthy leaves. If it is necessary, rinse your stems with some cool water, and pat dry completely. Drying wet herb stems will only result in moldy leaves that are unusable.
Bundle together in batches of four to six stems, and hold them together with a rubber band or piece of string. Keep in mind that the stems will shrink as they dry so you will need to check them periodically and retighten as necessary.
Once your herbs are bundled, place your bunches upside down into brown paper bags that have a number of holes punched in them and are labeled with the type of plant on the front.
Tie the bags close and hang them up in a warm, airy room and check them every week or two. Once your fresh herb plants are sufficiently dried, store your herbs in airtight containers like canning jars or Ziploc bags. Keep the containers away from direct sunlight and use within one year.
Using this process for drying and preserving your herb plants, you will be able to enjoy the savory aroma and flavor of home grown herbs year round. Happy harvest!
Fresh Herb Plants