Hello fellow readers,
It’s fun to grow herbs and enjoy them all summer long. But I’ll admit, I still dive into my stash of dry herbs even though there’s fresh ones out in the garden. Lazy Mary? Maybe. But a big part if it is, I’m used to cooking with dry herbs.
Bill from Stone Church asked how to preserve his herbs to enjoy them over winter. You can dry or freeze them Bill and it occurs to me that Lazy Mary can dry some herbs and use them even during the growing season. It will be our little secret.
The best time to harvest herbs are when the plant’s essential oils is at its highest. In leafy herbs it’s just before the plant blooms; so keep pinching buds to prevent them from going to flower. Harvest in mid-morning after the dew has dried, but before newly developed oils have been burned off by the sun.
If the leaves are clean, there’s no need to wash them as some of the oils may be lost. Or, rinse them quickly under cold water and shake off any excess.
Air-drying works best for low-moisture herbs like marjoram, oregano, rosemary and dill. Herbs with more moisture like basil, chives, parsley and mint are best dried in a dehydrator or oven. Some folks use their microwave but there’s a risk of scorching the herbs or worse – starting a fire!
To air-dry, gather 5 to 10 branches and tie with a string or twisty. Put them stem-side up in a paper bag to keep dust away and poke a few holes through for ventilation. Tie the end of the bag closed and hang stem-end up in a warm, well-ventilated place. Your herbs may be dried in as little as one week. Tray drying on a shallow-rimmed tray covered with cheesecloth works well for seeds, large-leafed or short-stemmed herbs.
To oven-dry, place herbs on a cookie sheet with the door ajar about 3 inches to allow moisture to escape. Set on a low heat, less than 180 degrees F, for 2 to 4 hours. Herbs are dry when they crumble easily.
Some prefer to freeze herbs such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and parsley. A quick way is to throw them into a zip-lock bag rolling the air out before you freeze them. But to prevent freezer burn, it may be better to freeze herbs in ice cube trays. Fill each section halfway with water then add a tablespoon of herbs chopped as if you were using them fresh. Once frozen, if some herbs floated, top off each cube and refreeze. Or make an oil-based paste mixing 2 cups of chopped herbs with about 1/3 cup of oil (olive oil works well) and freeze in ice cube trays. Then pop them out and store in a freezer bag.
I’ve heard of drying herbs on your dashboard. You may look a bit odd driving on Route 80 though. And don’t be surprised if an officer pulls you over to check out your stash. It will be our little secret.
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