Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Harvesting & Drying Herbs

It is fall. And most of our garden's bounty has been harvested and eaten but there are still those herbs who need harvesting. With the moon in a watersign today, I decided, it is time to get the scissors out and snip: sage, rosemary, mints and lemon balm.

Now what?

After rinsing them, I shook them, tied some of them in bunches and hung them upside down in the dining room. You won't believe the scent!

Drying herbs in the oven is way faster, but if the herbs are dried too quickly at too high a temperature, much of the flavor, oils, and color of the herbs can be lost.  So, to gently oven dry, I placed the leaves and / or stems on a cookie sheet or shallow pan and warmed them at 180°F for 3 to 4 hours with the oven door open.

What to do with those dried herbs? While herbs can be used for soo many things, here is what I do with my herbs:

Lemon Balm, is a perennial.The leaves are picked and I use it in herbal teas or in iced tea or fruit salads.
Lavender is a perennial. The whole flower spikes are cut just before the florets are fully open. I use lavender in sachets, cold-hot-packs, eyemasks, airsols, oils, soap as well as for culinary purposes. Check out some herbal tea recipes here. 

Marjoram, is an annual but in my mild Californian winters, they end up being a perennial. I cut them back to 1 inch above the ground and use marjoram leaves with meat, poultry, vegetables (beans for Thanksgiving!)

Mints are perennials. We harvest the leaves basically all the time for herbal teas and for cooking. Since they grow like mad, you may want to cut them almost to the ground.

Oregano is a perennial. Harvest and dry before flowering and use to season spaghetti sauces and tomato dishes.

Rosemary is a perennial and mine smell and taste amazing! We love them with meats, poultry dishes, and potatoes. After drying, you can season sea salt with it; in a pretty jar these are nice gifts.

Sage is a perennial Harvest when just starting to flower A commonly used seasoning for Thanksgiving (meat & stuffing) as well as great in herbal teas. We also love fried sage leaves. Check out my recipe here.

Thyme is a perennial and is nice with meats and soups.


Soften 1/4 pound of butter at room temperature. Add about 4 tablespoonsful of dried herb leaves as well as a bit of minced garlic.  Beat with an electric blender until light and fluffy. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis


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