In our last article we covered 13 easy to grow and use herbs. Today I'm going walk you through the steps required to best harvest and dry your culinary herbs in preparation for use.
Collect herbs just before they flower; the oil content of the plant is at its maximum at that time. Select fully grown leaves and cut the top ½ to 2/3 of the plant
Gently and rapidly wash the plant in tepid water until it is free of dirt. Gently shake off the water and pat dry with a towel.
Lay the leaves out in a single layer on a drying frame covered with cheese cloth or nylon mesh. Another method is to hang the herbs in small bundles. It is important to keep the bundles small in order to allow for air circulation and the quickest drying. Hang the bunches in a dry, dark, and well-ventilated area.
Stripping and Storing
As soon as the herbs are dried, usually 1-2 weeks, strip the leaves and store them in air-tight containers. The shelf life of dried herbs is about 1 year.
Some herbs can easily be frozen, maintaining their ‘just-picked’ flavor such as basil, chives, parsley, and mint. Wash the herb and air dry completely. Place in a zip lock bag, seal leaving a small opening, suck out the rest of the air so the bag is flat, seal immediately and freeze. Ice cube trays work great for freezing fresh basil. Tear the basil leaves into smaller pieces, place into an ice cube tray, fill with cold water and freeze. When you want to add fresh basil to sauces simply toss in a few “Basil Cubes”.