HARVESTING GARDEN HERBS . . . Drying Summer Herbs

In an attempt to save some of the flavors of summer, I am harvesting our abundant supply of herbs and spices. This morning I picked herbs for drying and basil for freezing. Later this week I will make herbed vinegars, oils and butters + freeze batches of pesto. 
Samples of the herbs we grow (from right to left; * indicates that we dry it for winter use)
Chocolate Mint -- comes back each year; spreads like mad!
Peppermint -- comes back each year; spreads like mad!
Lavender -- comes back each year.
Parsley, Italian flat leaf & curly -- sometimes comes back but we usually add a plant or two in the spring
Basil -- has to be replanted yearly.
Chives -- we can usually use these all winter long; spreads.
*Rosemary -- has to be replanted each spring.
*Thyme -- ours is located near the house and we use it throughout the winter; spreads.
*Sage -- we use it throughout the winter; it spreads and we even use it as a ground cover.
*Oregano -- comes back each year; spreads like mad and we also use this as a ground cover.
How To Dry Herbs
1.     Cut healthy branches from your herb plants.
I am harvesting thyme.

Harvesting oregano.
2.     Remove any dry or diseased leaves.
3.     Shake gently to remove any insects.
4.     If necessary, rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Wet herbs will mold and rot.
5.     Remove the lower leaves along the bottom inch or so of the branch.
6.     Bundle 4 to 6 branches together and tie as a bunch. You can use string or a rubber band. The bundles will shrink as they dry and the rubber band will loosen, so check periodically that the bundle is not slipping. Make small bundles if drying herbs with a high water content. 

7.     Hang herbs upside down in a warm, airy room until completely dry.
Bundled herbs hanging on pan hooks.
Storing Dried Herbs
8.     Store your dried herbs in air-tight containers. (Zip-lock bags, small canning jars, etc.)
9.     Be sure to label and date your containers.
10.  Your herbs will retain more flavor if the leaves are stored whole; crush them when ready to use them.
11.  Discard any dried herbs that show the slightest sign of mold.
12.  Place containers in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
13.  Dried herbs are best used within a year. As your herbs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.
14.  Use about 1 teaspoon crumbled dried leaves in place of a tablespoon of fresh (1 to 3 ratio). If you happen to grind or pulverize your herbs, use only ¼ to ½ teaspoon in place of the tablespoon of fresh. You can always add more . . . but you can’t remove an overpowering herb flavor. Remember, herbs and spices should enhance the natural flavors of foods.

Note: Fresh basil does not dry well. Freezing is an alternative –Wash, dry, add to food processor, drizzle with a little olive oil and process. Store the basil puree in small containers. Add to soup, stews, spaghetti sauce, etc.
Load food processor bowl with clean basil leaves.

Drizzle in olive oil and then process.
Pack basil puree into small containers and freeze.

Definition for Herbs and Spices
Although I’ve seen a variety of definitions, these from an Nebraska University Extension publication by Alice Henneman, makes make the most sense to me . . .
Herbs are leaves of low-growing shrubs. Examples are parsley, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, caraway, dill, oregano, rosemary, savory, sage and celery leaves. These can be used fresh or dried. Dried forms may be whole, crushed or ground.

Spices come form the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, onion, garlic), buds (cloves, saffron), seeds (yellow mustard, poppy, sesame), berry (black pepper), or the fruit (allspice, paprika) of tropical plants and trees.


  1. I might need to come harvest some of those herbs for drying myself! Looks great! I've already got a ton of pesto in my freezer, ready for many pesto pizzas in the future!