Herbs can be harvested and used for flavoring a variety of recipes and foods. Often time the plant’s leaves are the usable part of the herb plant, and can be used long after the plant dies when temperatures begin to cool. Drying the leaves from your herb garden is a good way to preserve the leaves so you can use them when your plant is out of season.
- The best time to harvest herbs is right when the plant has matured.
- The leaves are moist, which means they must dry quickly to avoid molding.
- To make the drying process quicker, make sure air circulates around both sides of the leaf.
- Cut more leaves than you would normally use when fresh; when you dry herbs, the leaves will shrink.
Cut the herb from the plant, leaving a small bit of the stem on the plant. The best time to harvest your herb is in the morning, just after the dew has dried.
METHOD 1 (THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY):
Keep the stems rather long and bind them together in small bunches to hang dry. Be aware that as the leaves dry, bits and pieces will fall off so you will want to catch these pieces. You can place a paper bag with holes around the bundles of basil to catch the falling dried leaves. These should be hung in a warm area with low humidity.
METHOD 2 (THE QUICK METHOD):
It is possible to dry herbs in the microwave for a less time-consuming method. Lay the leaves on paper towels, careful not to overlap any of the leaves. Microwave on low for about 3 minutes. Check the leaves every 30 seconds and remove the leaves that are dry. Continue microwaving the others. Keep checking the leaves to prevent burning.
STORING YOUR HERBS
Once your leaves have dried, remove the stems and any flowers if they were dried with the leaves. Crumble the leaves and store your herbs in a dry, sealed container, such as a jar. Over time, dried herbs will lose flavor, but light will increase this. Store herbs in a cupboard or pantry to avoid light.