Growing your own herbs is incredibly rewarding - especially when you get to taste the delicious results of your hard work.
If you decide to grow vertically, however, you’ll have a much larger crop yield than you’d have from a regular garden. Drying and preserving your herbs is a great way to make the most of your increased harvest - ensuring nothing goes to waste. You can easily bottle these dried herbs as gifts for friends and family (or to sell).
The beauty of preserving and bottling your herbs is that you can grow various different crops during different seasons, but still enjoy home-grown herbs all year round.
Tips to help you harvest your herbs
- Make sure you harvest before the plants start flowering.
- If you have an outdoor herb garden, harvest your herbs mid-morning. Wait until after the dew has dried, but make sure the plants haven’t started wilting in the afternoon sun.
Ingredients for your Italian herb mix
After harvesting, it’s time to dry your fresh herbs…
- Cut all of the healthy leaves and branches off your plants. You can ignore any damaged or diseased leaves - they won’t add any flavor.
- Shake everything gently to dislodge any insects hidden amongst the leaves. You won’t be washing these leaves - so be meticulous in removing any stowaways before you start the drying process.
- Dust off as much excess soil as possible. If you’re growing vertically this shouldn’t be a problem, but plants that were grown in the ground tend to get a little grubby from branches dragging on the floor. You can, if necessary, lightly rinse your herbs - but make sure they are 100% dry before you attempt to preserve them. If any moisture is present when you start the preservation process, you’ll end up with moldy, rotten branches.
- Remove the leaves from the lower end of the branches and group four to six stems together with yarn. The plants will begin to shrink as they dry out - so you’ll need to occasionally check that the yarn is tight enough. It takes approximately two weeks to air-dry herbs.
Image source: Raise Your Garden
- Cut (or punch) several small holes into paper bags. You’ll need one paper bag for each bundle. Be sure to label each packet before hand so you know which herbs are which.
Image source: Moonfrye
- Place a bundle, upside down, into a punched bag and tie the end closed. Make sure there’s enough room in the bag for decent air circulation.
- Hang your bags of herbs in a warm, dry and well-aired room. Check the bags every couple of days to make sure they’re drying out nicely - keep an eye out for mold.
- Once your bundles are sufficiently dry, place them into airtight jars or containers. Don’t crush the leaves until you’re ready to use them - this will produce a much better flavor. Throw away any branches that have mold on them.
- Make sure you add a label to each container, noting the date they were bottled. Your dried herbs can be stored for up to 12 months, so it’s handy to keep track of time. As soon as the leaves look like they’re losing color, they will also start losing flavor.
- Store your dried herbs in a cool, dark cupboard. High heat, humidity, and direct sunlight will deteriorate the quality of your herb, and cause them to lose their flavor.
The perfect Italian herb mix
Crush and bottle the following quantities of dried herbs for the perfect Italian herb mix:
- 6 tablespoons of Oregano
- 3 tablespoons of dried Basil
- 3 tablespoons of Chives
- 2 tablespoons of Rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of Thyme
- 1 tablespoon of Sage
- 1 tablespoon of Parsley
Growing, preserving and cooking with your own home-grown herbs is a great family project. Not only do home-grown herbs taste better, you’ll have full control over the entire process - cutting out harmful chemicals, and ensuring your family enjoys good, fresh organic produce.
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