Simple autumn pleasures – drying herbs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA One of the most pleasurable tasks in the autumn garden is gathering and preserving herbs. The gathering part is easy. The preserving part can be, too.

It’s super easy to extend the fresh flavor of sage for winter soups and stews, for crumbling over roasting chicken, on baked pork chops, or to add special flavor to crab cakes or other seafood dishes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All you do is slice about 4 to 6 inches off the top of each healthy sage stem, gather a few stems into a bunch, and secure the ends with a rubber band. Hang the bunches upside down, as shown here, out of direct sunlight. They may lose some color as they slowly dry, but they will maintain flavor. I just snip off the number of leaves I need, crush them by rubbing leaves between my palms, and add to whatever I’m cooking.

 

Rosemary is nearly as easy to dry. I prune potted rosemary before moving it back inside for the autumn and winter. Then I remove the leaves from the cuttings by stripping them into a small brown paper bag. I fold the top of the bag over, staple it closed, label the bag, and place it above my kitchen cabinets. The leaves will dry in about a month.

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Thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano, and any sage too short to bundle will also dry well in brown paper bags. Basil does not – the leaves turn an unappetizing green-black and lose a fair amount of flavor. (Basil becomes pesto or …) Preserve parsley the same as basil.

Not convinced drying herbs is worth it?

Consider the economics: Air drying requires no additional electricity or heat. If you are already growing herbs, all you need are rubber bands and brown paper bags – both items easily reclaimed. It’s a no-brainer when you compare the minimal amount of time and energy required to dry home-grown herbs with the cost of buying dried herbs – anywhere from a couple of dollars for 1.5 ounces to $4 for larger quantities depending on the herb.

Consider the flavor: Home dried is so much fresher than store-bought.

Consider the environment: Less need for special harvesting and drying equipment, special packaging, long distance transportation.

Consider the satisfaction of knowing the flavors you’re enjoying throughout the year had their start in your own garden and were cared for and preserved by your hands. Locavore to the nth power.

3 comments for “Simple autumn pleasures – drying herbs.

  1. October 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Joene, I’ve never dried my own herbs but you sure make it sound simple. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions, I’ll have to get out my brown bags and give it a try.

  2. joenesgarden
    October 5, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Debbie, try some of the thyme you have growing. Once it’s dry slip the leaves off the stems and store in a container as you would other dry herbs. Home dried herbs are best used within one year. After that they tend to lose flavor. Happy drying.

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