Eating fresh herbs from your garden is wonderful when they are in season. The bounty can be almost too much for a single family to eat at any one time. It is such a shame to see the plant with all it’s goodness wilt and die back in the fall with loads of wonderful leaves or flowers which could have been eaten. What can you do to prevent this tragedy?
Dry them! If you cut back your plant several times through the growing season it helps to keep the plant tidy and gives you herbs to dry for later use. Mint, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, rosemary and any other herb you’ve found in the spice rack at the grocery store can be processed this way. First of all cut the plant back so that there are still a few inches of stem and leaves above the ground so it’ll continue to grow. Take the stems you’ve harvested and wash them very well in cool water taking care to not remove too many leaves, but get rid of the bugs, worms, dirt and cobwebs that have gathered between the branches. Shake off as much moisture as you can and then spread the stems in a singe layer on a towel. Allow them to dry for a few hours turning every so often so that they dry evenly. Once most of the water has dried off tie the stems together is small bunches and hang them upside down inside a paper bag or pillow case in a dark corner or at least out of direct sunlight. I hung mine on my north facing back porch on a clothes line that was strung there before we even moved in and never took down. The paper bag or pillow case is intended to keep dust and bugs out but still allow some fresh air in that will help dry and not rot the leaves. After a few weeks or even sooner depending on the humidity you’ll have dried herbs in your bag.
Remove the dried stems from your bag and carefully remove the leaves by running your thumb and forefinger or your closed hand against the direction of the growth down the stem. The resulting mass of dried leaves can be stored as is or crushed and put in an airtight container. This will give you wonderful flavors of your summer herb garden well into the winter and following spring before your plants, if perennial, come for another season of growth.