Preserving Fresh Herbs From the Garden

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With fall comes the time for harvesting gardens, canning all the things, and preserving herbs for the chilly months ahead. Preserving fresh herbs may sound like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite easy! This post outlines the simple steps to accomplish this task.

dried basil on cutting board and in spice jar

My season of life with busy summers and travel does not lend itself to having a large garden every summer (cue the tears). However, I do love to grow herbs in the pots on my porch or in my windows. Having access to fresh ingredients when I’m cooking makes me feel like I’m “legit” when it comes to homemaking. Fresh herbs really do add something special to whatever I’m cooking!

This year, I did not have the capacity to plant herbs in my porch pots. BUT, some sweet friends were generous enough to share their garden bounty with me. It was a bumper crop year for basil and parsley! These are two spices that I use frequently in my cooking. Let me share how I’m preserving these herbs to last all through the fall and winter seasons.

fresh basil on stand being prepped for preservation

Instructions for Preserving Herbs

The first thing you will want to do is to wash your herbs with water and some sort of a vegetable wash. I fill a sink up with water, add some Thieves Fruit & Veggie Wash, and soak the herbs for 1-2 minutes. This will flush out any little bugs that have made their homes in your plants! Carefully rinse everything off and set the herbs out to dry.

washing fresh herbs to be preserved
rinsing fresh herbs to be preserved into dry spices

After washing, I set the herbs on a baking sheet. You can add parchment paper to the sheet if you prefer. I put my oven on the lowest setting (175*F) and put the herbs in the oven with the oven door slightly cracked open. This will make your house smell so good! I let the herbs cook for about 3-5 hours until they are completely dry and crumbly to touch.

preserving herbs on baking pan prepped for oven
basil in oven on baking sheet being dried for spice jars

Transfer the dried herbs from the pan and crumble them into small pieces. Remove large stems and pieces from the herbs. You really want more of the leaves, not the stems and flowers. Place the dried herbs in an airtight container, label them, and store them in a dry dark place.

preserved herbs in spice jars lined up on countertop

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Tips For Preserving Herbs & Storing Them

  • There are several options for drying your herbs besides using an oven. You can tie bundles of herbs together and hang them upside down in the sun for a few days. This makes for beautiful pictures and keeps the house cool, but I’m too impatient to wait this long for herbs to dry. I usually have a small window of time to finish a project and need something a little faster! You could also experiement with drying herbs in a dehydrater. I haven’t done this, but I know it can be done. I personally would stay away from drying herbs in a microwave. I know it’s probably a popular option with some, but you lose a lot of natural oils and flavor when using a microwave.
  • However you dry your herbs, make sure that they are completely dry before storing them away. If they are even a little bit wet, they will start to mold. I always check my bottles for moisture or condensation before using them.
  • Store your herbs in an airtight container and in a cool, dry and dark place. They need to be far away from sunlight to preserve their flavor and stay good.
  • Make sure you label all your dried herbs before storing them away. Once they are dried and crumbled, they tend to look similar and they can even smell alike.
  • You can experiment with freezing herbs as well. I haven’t done this because my freezer space is limited. However, I would be interested to hear your experiences if you have!

Tips For Using Dried Herbs

  • Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor than fresh herbs. If you are using dried instead of fresh, use about 1/4 of the amount called for. You can always add more later if you think it’s needed!
  • Some herbs, like parsley, basil or cilnatro will lose some of their flavor and “punch” when dried. That’s okay! These herbs still dry beautifully and taste great when used in recipes.

Tools You May Need To Preserve Herbs

Thank you to my sweet friends Summer & Lindsey for sharing your garden with me and teaching me your homemaking ways. My heart is so grateful!

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