Last month I shared my recommendations for planning your herb garden for spring. If you missed it, check it out here! I hope that I inspired you to pull out a notebook, research what herbs you would like to plant and plan your herb garden! So, now you are probably thinking to yourself, “OK, so I’m going to plant my herb garden in the spring…Then what do I do with it?!?” Well I am here today to teach you how to harvest and dry your herbs!
I follow a few simple steps in the harvesting and drying process. Before I cut back any of my herbs, I always research the individual herb to ensure I am not damaging the plant. However, these are a few of my general guidelines for harvesting that work for most of my herbs:
- Never allow your herbs to flower, if you see flowers forming, pinch them off or harvest at this time. (Unless of course it’s an herb that you use the flower, like lavender or dill)
- Harvest frequently, about 2-3 times throughout the growing season.
- Cut back about 2/3 of the plant.
So, once you’ve cut your herbs take them inside for a little bit of prep work! I lightly rinse off all of the leaves with cool water to ensure no dirt, bugs, etc have made their way inside with me. Note that I said lightly rinse-do not drown your herbs and also do not use hot water as this will wilt the leaves. You are just making sure the leaves are clean!
The method I use for drying my herbs is laying them out on trays. So I get out my cookie sheets, line them with paper towels to absorb any dripping water and then lay my herbs out over the sheets. During the drying process, I usually toss the herbs once or twice a day to ensure that they are drying properly and not just sitting in dampness. If you notice dampness, replace the paper towels and make sure that the herbs are spread out enough. The last thing you want is for your beautiful herbs (that you’ve been cultivating all spring and summer) to mold when you are preparing them for use.
Now this is the most time consuming part of the whole process. Strip the leaves off of the branches and crumble the leaves, for herbs like peppermint, oregano, and lemon balm. Make sure there are no hard stems or branches in your crumbled leaves because this will be what you are using in your cooking. For herbs like rosemary, simply remove the leaves from the stems, you do not have to crush the leaves further.
Now, you just need to store your herbs until you are ready to use them! My favorite way to store mine are in pint size or (smaller) mason jars. BALL has awesome shaker lids that you can buy at Walmart or Target. Or for a cheaper, more frugal solution, you can also save your parmesan cheese lids-They fit perfectly onto the top of regular mouth mason jars! Best discovery ever!!! 🙂 Make sure you label each jar so you know what it contains. Store the jars in a cool, dark place so that the herbs retain their color and flavor!