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.