It’s easy to take the garden for granted when it’s showing off in the summer, especially my sage which has more gusto this year than any sage plant I’ve ever owned. My weekly weeding sessions keep the herbs in tip top shape, and yield more trimmings than I can manage to use. This is where a little foresight comes in handy.
In a few short months, we’ll be wearing overcoats again, and our gardens will be memories of another summer in the books. It’s possible to keep some mementos, though, ones you can put to good use in soups, stews, and the like. I know crazy to think about those meals when all we want to do is fire up the grill, and eat lots of juicy, ripe, fresh picked tomatoes.
Preserving fresh herbs takes little effort, especially for the ones with sturdy stems like thyme, rosemary, lemon verbena, and chamomile. After trimming them back, I tie them in bundles using kitchen twine, hang them on a hook or nail, and let nature take its course. The herbs will dry out with each passing week, the exact amount of time varying depending on the heat and humidity levels in your house.
Once the leaves are completely dehydrated, you can remove them from the stems. Store the herbs in glass jars, in a cool dry place to preserve their freshness. The dried bundles also make lovely hostess gifts. You can even package them in a basket, and include a recipe for a favorite dish to use them in.
More delicate herbs, like basil and parsley can be dried, too, with a slightly different approach. You’ll want to remove the stems. They contain a lot of water, and will delay the drying process. Pinch off the leaves, and add the stems to your compost bin, if you have one. Spread the leaves in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Set the pan in a spot out of the way, and within a few days they should be dried out.