How to Harvest
- Most herbs are at their peak just before flowering, during the bursting bud phase. This is the bets time to harvest for drying and storage.
- Harvest is in the morning, just after the dew has dried. Avoid bruising the leaves, and do not leave in the sun, otherwise, they will lose considerable flavor.
- If herbs are dirty, rinse herbs in cool water and gently shake to remove excess moisture.
- Discard all bruised, soiled or imperfect leaves and stems.
How to Dry
- Less tender herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory, and parsley, can be dried indoors (for better color and flavor retention), by tying them in small bundles and hanging them to air dry. Make sure the area has good air circulation.
- More tender-leaf herbs, such as basil, oregano, lemon balm, and the mints have too high moisture content and may mold if not dried quickly. Use the paper bag method for these plants. Remove leafs from stem, place material in a paper bag, hang on a string with a clothespin, or rubber band, and let dry until complete.
- Another method is oven drying, which is especially good for the mints, sage, or bay leaf. Spread leaves on towels (try not to let leaves touch too much), and cover with another towel. Leave in a cool oven overnight, and the leaves should be dry by morning. This is a good method, because the leaves dry flat, and retain their color and flavor quite well.
- When the leaves crumble easily, this a good time to store.
- Put all herbs in jars, or recycled containers, with a label and the date of packaging.
- Dried herbs are usually 3 to 4 times stronger than the fresh herbs. To substitute dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, use 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount listed in the recipe.
Making Herb Infused Oils & Vinegars
Making infused oils and vinegars is a great way to preserve the herb harvest and extract delicious flavors and medicinal properties from common plants.
Herbal vinegars and oils are delicious in salad dressing, marinades, or in sauces. Infused oils can be used topically as well.
Because of the acidity of vinegar, it is the best medium for extracting the minerals. Calcium and all minerals dissolve into vinegar very easily.
You can see this for yourself. Submerge a bone in vinegar for six weeks. What happens? The bone becomes rubbery, because the vinegar extracted the minerals from the bone. Now the vinegar is loaded with calcium and other bone-building minerals!
A tablespoon of infused herbal vinegar has the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk.
How to Make Herbal Vinegars
Tightly pack a glass container or jar full of plant material. Stick with one plant per brew.
Fill container to the top with apple cider vinegar (raw, organic vinegars give you beneficial microorganisms much like yogurt does.)
Since vinegar rusts metal, a cork or plastic top is preferable. Placing a piece of waxed paper or plastic between a metal lid and the jar works too.
Label the container with the plant name and date. Place in a sunny window.
The next day, the plant may have absorbed enough liquid to end up uncovered, so top off the liquid level.
Check the liquid level once or twice over the next week.
Six weeks later, strain out the plant material, and you have your own herb vinegar!
Herb & Vinegar Suggestions
Chives and especially chive blossoms, dandelion (Traxacum off.) flower buds, leaves, roots, dill (Anethum graveolens) herb, seeds, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) herb, seeds, garlic (Allium sativum), ginger (Zingiber off.) and Wild ginger (Asarum canadensis) roots, lavender (Lavendula sp.) flowers, leaves, orange peel, organic only, peppermint (Mentha piperata and etc.) leaves, stalks, rosemary (Rosmarinus off.) leaves, stalks, thyme (Thymus sp.) leaves, stalks
How to Make Infused Herbal Oils
Clean, thoroughly dry, and roughly chop the herbs of your choice.
Place herbs in the Mason jar or other glass container, and add oil (olive, grape seed) to cover.
Reopen the jar and poke the resulting mixture with a toothpick to release air bubbles trapped below, and to insure that herbs are covered with oil.
Put the jar in a sunny window, and let sit for two weeks to five weeks.
After period of infusion, strain the oil into a glass measuring cup through a strainer, and pour into a storage container. The oil should be semi-clear to lightly cloudy, and strongly fragrant.
Store in a cool, dark place or in the fridge for up to a year. Be careful not to create an environment that encourages mold. The presence of any moisture on the herb or in the jar encourages mold growth. Also, if there is air space in the jar, mold will grow. Make sure the herbs are dry, the container is completely dry, and make sure there is no room for oxidation to occur.