Preserving Herbs the Safe, Easy Way

by Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center

Although I’ve been harvesting like mad, herb quantities are exceeding consumption at the Lain casa, so it’s time to start preserving.

Give one or all of these methods a try:

Air-drying Method

  • Cut only healthy branches from plants. Remove dry or spotted leaves. If necessary, rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove lower leaves from the bottom inch of each branch. 
  • Gather together 4-6 branches and, using string or rubber bands, tie them into a loose bunch. Punch several holes in a paper bag and label it. Place the herb bundle upside down in the bag.The bundle of herbs should not be crowded or cramped. Tie together the exposed stems of the herbs and the open end of the bag. Hang the bag away from direct sunlight in a warm, airy room like a garage or mudroom.
  • In two weeks check how drying is progressing. Keep checking weekly until herbs are dry and ready for use. Dried herbs retain more of their flavors when stored whole in airtight containers.

Frozen Leaf Method 

  • Harvest the freshest, healthiest leaves.  
  • Spread the individual leaves on a small tray or cookie sheet. Freeze individual leaves flat and separate to prevent them from freezing together.  
  • Put the tray of leaves in freezer.  
  • When the leaves have frozen solid, gently place them in airtight containers and return to the freezer. 

Ice Cube Method 

  • Stuff 2-3 individual leaves or a spoonful of chopped herbs into each cavity.  
  • Fill the trays half full with water. Try to submerge the leaves in the water. Put the half-filled trays into the freezer. 
  • Once the cubes are frozen, finish filling the trays with water. The leaves no longer will float and can be surrounded with water. Now place the tray back into the freezer. Freezing herbs in olive oil also works. 
  • When solidly formed, remove ice cube from the trays and store them in zip-closing freezer bags. 
  • When ready to use, toss the whole ice cube into the dish you’re cooking. 

Autumn is an excellent season to plant new herbs like rosemary, thyme and lavender. Planting in fall produces a hardier plant for more production next season.  Watters November herb selections are also evergreen.  

Until next issue, I’ll be helping locals plant better herbs here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or