The day before the Autumnal Equinox it snowed here at Grandma’s house.
Oh, it melted soon enough. There was enough to complain about. The cat cut his morning walk short (and blamed me for his cold wet toes). Most importantly it was the reminder to finish the harvest and before it was too late.
Harvesting the Herbs
Here in the north I have to harvest in the Fall. The leafy herbs – mostly in the mint family – can be dried, frozen, and infused.
- No matter how you want to save your herbs, your first step is to sort for quality. Pick the healthy strong plants and leave any sunburnt or faded for your compost heap.
- Bundle your herbs into manageable bundles. You can tie them together with kitchen twine or rubber bands.
- Wash in cold water. Your goal is to clean off any critters or contaminants not flavor or essential oils.
- Pre-dry with towels, shake and hang, or use your salad spinner.
Traditional Hanging to Dry
If you have warm and dry area to hang your bundles it will take about 2 weeks to be dry enough to package. I like putting my bundles inside an upside down paper lunch bag to keep them from getting dusty over the drying time.
This is my preferred method simply because I can control every step.
- Unbundle and spread on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.*
- Put in your oven on the lowest setting – usually about 175 F.
- If your oven doesn’t vent moisture, you might want to prop the door open just enough to make sure you are drying the herbs.
- In about 60 minutes, turn the herbs.
- Check for doneness after 30 minutes (expect it to take a full hour but don’t let them get brown or cooked).
*You are going to have to strip the herbs from the stalks either before or after you dry them. If you want to store whole (or wholeish) leaves strip first.
Follow the instructions on your machine.
Option 1: Dry as above. Bag sandwich bags. Freeze for up to a year.
Option 2: Clean and pre-dry your herbs. Strip leaves. Spread in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze. Bag in single servings and place back in your freezer.
Option 3: Place herbs in cups of a clean ice cube tray. I like trays with snap-tight lids. Pour extra-virgin olive oil or melted butter into each cup. Place into freezer.
I grow too many herbs to consider infusion as a method for bulk storage. The basic method is to stuff fresh herbs into a bottle that can seal tight. Pour olive oil over the herbs. Leave enough room for the bottle stopper. Shake and store in a cool place. The flavor will get stronger the longer you let it sit.
Olive Oil does have a shelf life – even infused with fabulous herbs. Keep in the refrigerator and try to use it all within 2 months.
Exception: Rosemary infusion is better with a bit of cooking. I like this recipe from The Spruce Eats.