Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Preserving the Harvest: Herbs

Last Friday, my goal was to tame the overgrown herbs in the garden. The oregano was is full bloom, parsley was taking over the bed, dill was a tall tangled mess, and the cilantro had bolted long ago. All of these plants were attracting many different bees, hornets, and other pollinators to the garden so I left them alone for quite some time. However recently, they began to sprawl out smothering other plants and making it difficult to mow and trim around the garden beds. It was time to take control.

Parsley stalks were cut, the leaves trimmed from the stalks, washed, then run through a salad spinner to rinse and spin out excess moisture.


The remaining parsley leaves were microwaved dried via Carol at Annie's Kitchen Garden's method. Parsley leaves are layered on a paper towel, microwaved until dry (4-5 minutes), allowed to cool, then stored in a jar.

Dried Parsley

Sage was trimmed, washed, run through the salad spinner, then left a clean towel to dry completely. The leaves were loosely packed in zipper bags, excess air sucked out with a straw, and frozen.


Sage Leaves

I have dried sage in the past, but find that the flavor is much stronger when frozen requiring less in recipies.

I was hoping to gather some coriander from the cilantro plants, but waiting for the seeds to dry on the plant seemed to be taking forever. A recent post by Thomas at A Growing Tradition made me realize that I didn't have to wait. I bit into a green coriander seed and found that I liked the flavor. I can see it working in many Mexican dishes.

Green Coriander

I pulled the cilantro plants and collected a bowlful of green coriander seeds. These were washed, allowed to dry, placed into a zipper bag, and frozen.

The oregano was trimmed down to the base of the clump of plants. Usually, this results in renewed growth of the plant providing a late season fresh harvest for tomato sauce and pizza. We shall see.

The long stalks of oregano, dill, and cilantro were tossed into the woods. I usually compost most of my garden waste, but the compost pile doesn't get hot enough to kill the seeds and most of the stems were too woody to break down.

I also try to grow parsley, rosemary, basil, and oregano on a sunny window over the winter months to provide fresh herbs. However sometimes dried herbs work better especially for slow cooked meals such as sauces, roasts, soups and stews.


  1. Your herbs are beautiful! I tried drying some basil in the microwave last week, same as I do parsley, and it caught fire and burned!

  2. It sounds like you have a fantastic selection of herbs to enjoy in you rcooking this winter. I have never thought to dry parsley, perhaps I will do some up.

  3. We really have a hard time harvesting herbs. So much is wasted. Your post has been very helpful. Thanks.

  4. I am a little behind with my herb usual. Now that the tomatoes are going to slow down and die, I guess that I better get my rear in gear!

  5. Great post. A few questions though- I've read that in drying herbs its important to not let them get too hot (95-115 deg F) as it destroys the essential oils that give the herbs their flavor- wouldn't the microwave be way too hot?
    And second, my basil plant has black spots all over all of the leaves. Have you ever heard of this? What did I do wrong?

  6. great ideas for preserving all my herbs

  7. Oh, thanks for the oregano tip. I have a patch that needs whacking back in the worst way.

  8. Thanks for the reminder that I need to start harvesting some herbs. I'm still waiting for my corriander to turn brown. I may just give up and harvest them green like you did!

  9. I am not the greatest at using my fresh herbs and dont' grow a huge amount of them as a little goes a long way for us - but I really need to do more than I do as I am periodically buying items like dried basil when I had a crop the previous summer but just failed to preserve any for later use. I also need to get in the habit of growing some under my grow lights for fresh use in the winter months. It would be simple to do but I never think to do it. I am inspired by your post to change my ways and get more thoughtful about my herb production.