Gardening > Drying and Preserving Herbs

How to dry and preserve herbs:

Pick your herbs in the early morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of the sun has released the volatile oils which give each herb its distinctive flavour. Cut or pick the leaves from the outside of the plant. If you want seeds, caraway, dill, coriander, fennel etc; wait until the seed heads are dry and brown then shake them into a paper-bag. The whole plant will then need to be pulled up. Store the seeds in airtight jars either for sowing or culinary uses. The leaves and flowers (dill or fennel for example) can be dried or frozen. To freeze, wash and chop the leaves and put into ice-cube trays. Top up with water and freeze. The ice cubes can be removed and used as needed in stews, soups etc. Some herbs, parsley in particular will freeze in small portion in plastic bags. When needed they can be crumbled easily into the pot. Drying is a more difficult option. Basically the herbs need to be in a dry, airy place, maybe hung in bunches upside down or maybe laid in direct sunlight. Herbs can be dried in a very low oven or on a very low microwave setting ( be careful because they can easily burn). You need to experiment until you can dry herbs to paper-dryness whilst retaining some colour and flavour. They can be stored in airtight jars but will not last for more than six months. Having said this it is quite possible to keep most herbs growing all year round on a sheltered patio or on the kitchen window-sill. Sow a few assorted seeds in a container in the autumn, put them in the kitchen and keep well watered. When the herbs grow big enough to use keep them cut back so that no one plant takes over the container.