Learn how to harvest and preserve herbs from your garden this season!
Herbs are a wonderful addition to any home. Not only can they be easy to grow, but they add amazing, natural, low-calorie flavor to your recipes.
But what if you grow more than you can use? Or, what if you want to preserve herbs for later use? Let’s take a closer look at how to harvest and preserve herbs from your garden.
How to Harvest Herbs From Your Garden
How do you pick herbs without killing plants?
To preserve the life of your herbs, and not damage the plant, you want to pinch the tops of the leaves off. This will create a clean break and allow the plants to continue to thrive. Hold the top of the stem and pinch the herb.
How often should you harvest herbs?
Herbs should be harvested regularly and early. You should not allow your plants to mature. The point is to harvest the herbs so that they continue to produce. Never take all the herbs. You instead want to only take 1/3 of what’s available.
How do you know when herbs are ready to pick?
This really depends on the herb you’re growing. Remember the importance of picking early so that the plant continues to produce. Read the label that came with your plants to determine when to harvest each herb.
What herbs come back every year?
There are many perennial herbs. Mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, chives, oregano… According to HGTV, the best perennial herbs to grow include lavender, sage, bee balm, lemon balm, chives, fennel, thyme, mint, spearmint, oregano, and rosemary.
You want to harvest herbs at the peak of perfection. After herbs have flowered, the flavor is subtler and diminishes more quickly during the cooking and storing process.
You can use scissors to clip the herbs, this will prevent crushing the leaves and allowing the flavor to seep out. You want the sharpest scissors possible. Once cut, wash in water mixed with a bit of vinegar and dry thoroughly.
How to Preserve Herbs From Your Garden
Drying is the most popular options when it comes to preserving herbs. You can do this in a dehydrator. Follow your dehydrator’s instructions. You can also hang bunches of your herbs and allow them to air dry.
This can take up to two weeks. To keep the dust off your plants, you can place thin cotton bags over your herbs. You can also dry them by laying them in the sun or hanging in a bunch in the sun.
How do you preserve fresh herbs from the garden?
There are three great options. You can air dry by hanging the herbs upside down and allowing them to dry.
This process will take 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the herb. Once the herbs start to crumble, they are ready to be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 year.
To oven-dry your herbs, place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in a 150-degree oven with the door slightly ajar. This process will take up to 4 hours.
The herbs are ready when they crumble. Store for up to 1 year in an airtight container.
Lastly, freezing is another great option. Chop the herbs and place them in ice cube trays. Cover the herbs with water or broth and freeze. You can then transfer to a freezer bag. Use within 3 months.
Is it better to freeze or dry herbs?
It depends. Herbs with a high water content should not be allowed to air dry as they will mold and rot before they dry out. For these herbs, freezing is a better option.
How do you store fresh herbs long term?
Wrap the stems in a damp towel and then wrap the herbs in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge. The herbs will last for up to 2 weeks.
Can you freeze dry herbs?
Herbs can be freeze-dried. They will keep their flavor and last for years. As for dried herbs, you can place them in the freezer for long-term storage.
However, don’t do this if you plan to use the herbs regularly. Removing the herbs from the freezer to get out what you need will cause condensation and loss of flavor.
This is a good way to preserve herbs you only use at the holidays though.
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Some even use their oven to dry herbs. To do this, place your herbs on a cookie sheet and place in the oven at 180 degrees for 2 to 4 hours. If the leaves crumble when touched, they are dry.
Freezing fresh herbs is another great option. You can freeze them in ice cubes and then add to soups or even drinks. If you want, you can freeze the herbs in chicken stock in an ice cube tray.
Whether you’re using chicken stock or water, boil the water before covering your herbs in the tray. This will blanch the herbs so that they retain their flavor.
You can also mix fresh herbs into butter using your food processer. Mix the herbs into the butter and then you can freeze for later use. This is wonderful placed over a grilled chicken breast or for sautéing vegetables. There are so many wonderful uses for herb butter.
Herbs provide great flavor to meals, drinks, and even dessert. If you want to be able to use those flavors throughout the year, use these methods to harvest and preserve them.