Harvesting and drying herbs is a way to extend summer flavor into winter dishes. We backyard gardeners generally don't grow enough vegetables to put by for winter. The exception might be pumpkin and other winter squash. Herbs are a different story. We have been snipping and using them all summer. Now winter is coming on and we are reluctant to let then go. There are several ways to preserve them for winter use.
The photo on the right shows (from left to right) fresh basil, partly dried cilantro and parsley. Ghost pepper are to the far right.
If you have room, this is a satisfying way to preserve your herbs. They can continue to be used all winter as fresh herbs. Just find a sunny location and water regularly. So what if that isn't an option due to lack of space and growing conditions?
This is the next best option. You can still have flavorful herbs and they will be much fresher than those from the supermarket which may have been of the shelves for years.
Harvest the herbs before they flower. Collect them after the morning dew when the foliage is dry. Cut perennials only half way back. Cut annuals farther down. Tie a small bunch, 3 to 5 stems, lightly with string and place in a brown paper lunch size bag. Clip a few holes in the bag or aeration. Squeeze the top of the bag around the herb stems and tie together with string or a rubber band. Check after a wek to see in they are dry. If not, wait another week. It will take 1-3 weeks for the herbs to dry.
This method of drying is perfect for long-stemmed herbs such as marjoram, sage, savory, mint, parsley, basil, dill, and rosemary.
For harvesting seed such as cilantro/coriander, harvest the seeds after the plant turns brown, but before the seeds start to fall. Cut the whole plant and turn upside down to dry, then shake the dried seeds into a paper bag.
Be sure herbs are not wet. If wet, they will cook, not dry. Place dry herbs between 2 paper towels in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. If not completely dry, do another 30 seconds.
Herbs should be crumbly. Remove the leaves from the stem by stripping down the stem with your hand, crushing the leaves. Store in glass jars in the dark. Do not use metal or plastic containers. These may affect taste. Herb leaves can also be stored whole. Seeds can be whole or crushed.
Chervil, chives, garlic chives, dill weed, fennel greens, tarragon and parsley are good frozen. Wash and pat dry the herbs. Chop if desired. Place small amount is Zip-loc sandwich bags in one layer and freeze.
Herbs can be frozen in ice cubes to use in soups. Chop the herbs and pack into ice cube trays. Cover with water and freeze. When frozen, turn the cubes out and store in the freezer in Zip-loc bags. These can be added to food in frozen form, or thawed in a strainer.
[Note: Sweet basil turns black when frozen. It is best frozen as pesto.]