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How to: Preserve Your Herbs

As summer winds down and we refocus our minds on Fall gardening, we must still remember to take care of our summer plants so that they are utilized to their completion.  Late summer, as we are in now, is a great time to harvest and preserve herbs you have out in the garden.  Cool weather and shorter days approach, a forecast that herbs don’t generally benefit from, so its beneficial to pick your herbs within the next few weeks.  Preserving them will make their flavor last throughout the year — what’s better than using fresh seasonings grown by your own hand?  We will focus on two ways of preserving herbs — air drying and freezing.

Herbs best for air drying don’t  have a high moisture content, so focus on your bay, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, summer savory and thyme for this procedure.

Cut healthy branches from your herb plant and remove any dry or diseased leaves.  Shake to ensure there are no bugs on your branches.  If you must, rinse off herbs with cool water, making sure to dry completely. Wet herbs will mold and begin to rot.

Remove the lower leaves on the last inch of the branch, and bundle several (4-6) branches together, tying at the stem where leaves were removed.  Cut a few holes into a paper bag and place the herb bundle upside down in the bag.  Gather the ends of the bag around the bundle and tie closed.  Make sure herbs are not crowded and hang in a warm and airy room.  Check on every couple of weeks until dried.

Can be stored up to a year in a zip-locked plastic bag or other airtight container.

For herbs with a higher water content, like basil, chives, lemon balm, mint and tarragon, it is not recommended to use the air drying process because they will most likely mold before reaching the dried herb stage.  Instead, try freezing the leaves individually.

Lay herb leaves flat on a cookie sheet and freeze.  Once frozen, move individual leaves to an airtight container and keep in freezer.  Doing it this way will prevent the leaves from freezing together.

Another way to enjoy herbs year round is to create your own kitchen herb garden.  Place pots near a south or east-facing window, and invest in a grow light during the colder months.

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