How to Preserve Your Garden Herbs

Follow these simple steps for making your herb garden last.
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is a low-moisture herb that works well with the air-drying method.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Sage is a low-moisture herb that works well with the air-drying method.

If your herb plants are producing too quickly for you to keep up with the fresh harvest, you’ve got another option than watching them wither on the vine: dry them! Air-drying herbs is easy and inexpensive, but you can also dry herbs in a food dehydrator or right in your oven.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Decide on a method. Air-drying works best for low-moisture herbs like marjoram, oregano, rosemary and dill. Herbs like basil, chives and mint contain more moisture and it’s best to dry them in a dehydrator or oven.
  • Harvest. For the most flavor, cut herbs in mid-morning, right after the morning dew has dried.  Cut healthy herbs, removing any sickly, dried or wilted leaves and brushing away insects. If you must rinse the herbs, pat dry carefully afterward.

To Air-Dry:

  1. Gather 5-10 branches together and tie with string or a rubber band. The smaller the bundle, the easier and faster they will dry.
  2. Put the bundle of herbs, stem-side up, in a paper bag. Tie the end of the bag closed, being sure not to crush the herbs as you do, and poke a few holes in the bag for ventilation.
  3. Hang the bag by the stem end in a warm, well-ventilated room.

Your herbs may be dried and ready to store in as little as one week.

To Oven-Dry:

  1. Place herb leaves or seeds on a cookie sheet one inch deep or less.
  2. Put herbs in an open oven on low heat – less than 180 degrees F – for 2-4 hours. To see if the herbs are dry, check if leaves crumble easily. Oven-dried herbs will cook a little, removing some of the potency and flavor, so you may need to use a little more of them in cooking.

With both methods, you’ll know the herbs are dry when leaves crumble easily. Store in labeled, dated airtight containers like canning jars, plastic storage containers or freezer storage bags. For best flavor, keep the leaves whole until you are ready to use them, then crush. Dried herbs are best used within a year.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Have some extra space in your yard or garden? Plant a fresh and simple herb garden only steps away from the kitchen.

How to Plant an Herb Container Garden

Herbs have been grown all over the world for centuries for their flavor and healthful benefits. Learn how to plant an herb container garden.

Garden to Table: Broccoli

With its sweet high notes and sulfurous body, broccoli might be the perfect vegetable.

Garden to Table: Kale

Loaded with nutrients, including beta carotene and vitamin C, kale is good…and good for you.

How to Plant a Mini Herb Garden for Your Porch

Skip the dried, store-bought herbs and pick yours straight from your own miniature portable garden.

An Herb Garden Plan

Herbs are for more than cooking. Incorporate these versatile plants to help add spice to your landscape in this multi-season garden.