Harvesting, Drying, and Storing Herbs
When you see the buds starting to form on your plants, you know the flavours are at their maximum, and this is the perfect time to harvest your herbs. It is now that the essential oils are at their peak, making for the maximum potency for use in both food and remedies.
Each type of herb will bloom at a different point during the season - so you must keep an eye out for the buds, they are your cue. This will occur several times throughout the growing season, if you are careful not to over-harvest.Annual herbs can be cut back to 4-6 inches high, as long as you leave at least one pair of leaves. Perennials should be treated kindly, never removing more than one third of the plant. That's okay, though, the topmost leaves of your plants are the most flavourful.
Get out the sharpest pair of scissors you own, and cut large stems from the mature plant. Shake off any insects, then thoroughly rinse each individual sprig. Pat thoroughly dry so that they do not mould.
Air-drying is the best method for retaining maximum flavour (through the volatile oils), but it does have one drawback: dust. Unless you have an area where there is low dust, you might find that either the dehydrator or the oven methods are preferable. Air-drying is best for herbs that are relatively dry, e.g. dill, oregano, and parsley, as they require the least time.
N.B.: Tag your herbs at the beginning of the process, since dried herbs can look remarkably similar.
Herb drying methods:
Store herbs in airtight containers in the dark and use within one year for best quality (label them with the date so that you remember).
Other preservation methods and ways to use your herbs include:
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