Herbs are one of my favorite things to grow in my garden! They are easy to grow! Once you have an abundance of herbs you need to harvest and preserve them for use all year round.
There are many types of herbs to grow and harvest and many ways to preserve them depending on the intended use.
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Different Types Of Herbs
I have several types of herbs in my garden. Some are mainly for culinary use, some are more medicinal, some are for tea, and some I use in skincare products.
Beyond those distinctions different parts of the herbs are harvested. Sometimes I only harvest the leaves, sometimes the flowers, or even the roots, or a combination.
In this post we will be mostly looking at how to harvest and preserve the leaves and flowers of herbs.
A Few Kinds of Herbs I Grow
Herbs for Tea or Skincare
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Verbena
- Pineappple Sage
- Bee Balm
Harvesting and Preserving Herbs
Many herbs are harvested mainly for their leaves. The best time to harvest the leaves of herbs is when they are lush and green, before the plant flowers. The leaves of some herbs such as basil become more bitter once they have flowered.
To harvest herb leaves simply cut each branch a ways down, leaving a growth node below where you cut.
Other herbs are mainly harvested for their flowers, like calendula and chamomile. To harvest the flowers it is best to pinch the whole flower head when it its in the peak of bloom and before it begins to fade.
Ways to Preserve Herbs
There are a few different ways to preserve the herbs for later use. The individual herb and the intended use will help decide what the best method is.
The simplest way to preserve herbs just to dry them, however some herbs do not retain their flavor very well when dried. This is my go to method for preserving most herbs.
Dried herbs can be used in several different ways. Culinary herbs can be added dry to any recipe, many dried herbs are excellent in te blends, and dried herbs in most cases are best for making herbal infusions for skincare.
I have dried herbs two different ways. The simplest and perhaps my favorite is to tie them into bundles and hang them to dry. This works well with small amounts of herbs in a fairly dry climate like mine. I don’t think it would work as well in a humid area.
The second way I have dried herbs is in my electric deyhydrator. Because the flavor properties of herbs are very delicate use the lowest setting. My excaliber dehydrator has a setting just for herbs. It is the easiest way to dry herbs while being sure all the moisture is removed before storing.
Storing Dried Herbs
Once the herbs are dry it it is important to store them correctly. They should be stored in sealed containers that critters and insects cannot get into. I mostly store my herbs in glass canning jars with a lid screwed on tightly. Store the jars out of bright light and where the temperature is not exteme.
Pros and Cons of Drying Herbs
As with any method of preserving herbs there are pros and cons to drying herbs. The benefits include how easy it is to get started preserving herbs and the ability to store them without taking up freezer space or losing them if the freezer goes out. The main disadvantage is the loss of flavor over time in some of the more delicate herbs like lemon balm.
Some Herbs That I Dry to Preserve
- Lemon Balm
- Pinapple Sage
- Lemon Verbena
Another method that I use to preserve herbs is to freeze them. This is especially useful for delicate herbs like cilantro and chives that lose their flavore easily, although any herb can be frozen.
Freezing Herbs Plain
There are a few different ways that herbs can be frozen. The simplest is to place clean , dry herbs oa trayand freez in layers. Transfer to a freezer bag. Then simply grab a few sprigs to crumble into recipes all winter long.
Freezing Herbs In Water
Fresh herbs can also be frozen in water. Chop the herbs finely and place in ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze solid. Transfer to a freezer bag for storage.
The herb ice cubes are easy to add to recipes as you cook.
Freezing Herbs in Oil or Butter
Another way to freeze herbs is similar to above except in oil or butter instead of water. Begin by chopping the fresh herbs and placing them in ice cube trays. cover with olive oil or melted butter.
Herbs frozen in oil are especially good in recipes where you begin with cooking something in butter or oil. Theya re also great added to marinades, soups, dressings and more.
Alternatively, you may make a complete pesto recipe and freeze that in ice cube trays for later use. Pesto adds a burst of flavor to winter soups!
Pros and Cons of Freezing Herbs
Freezing herbs is a wonderful way to preserve the fresh flavor of herbs. The only real drawback is if you are limited on freezer space like I am you need to be selective in what goes into the freezer. I also always worry a little about my frozen food going bad if the powere is out for very long.
A Few Herbs I Freeze
Preserving Herbs In Salt
One more way that I enjoy preserving herbs is to make herb salts. I discovered this method a few years ago and have been doing it ever since.
The basic method is to put a few cups of good salt like Himalayan pink or sea salt into a food proccessor then pack the rest with fresh herbs and blend. The salt takes on the color and fragrance of the herbs. Allow to dry fully on trays, then store in jars.
Herb salts can be made with single herbs or with any combination you like. I prefer to put quite a few herbs plus garlic in mine for a versatile herb salt.
I use the herb salt in place of plain salt in almost any recipe. It is delicious sprinkled on eggs, in salad dressings and more.
Pros And Cons of Preserving Herbs with Salt
Making herb salt is an easy and flavorful way to preserve herbs. However the drawback is that you can only use them where you also want to use salt and this somewahat limits their use.
Herbs For Herb Salt
- and more
Three Ways to Preserve Garden Herbs
Drying, freezing, and making herb salt are the three main ways I preserve herbs from my garden. I hope this has given you some ideas for how to preserve your harvest as well!
Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these methods!