Six Easy Ideas to Extend Your Herb Season

Colder temperatures and frosty nights are right around the corner and you might be asking, “What’s the best way to preserve the herbs I still have out in the garden, so I can continue to use them during the winter months?” Why not try one or more of these six easy ideas to help you extend your herb season?

Basil

1. If potted, bring your herbs inside. Placed in a sunny window many herbs such as basil, chives, rosemary, and others will continue to flourish if given the right environment. Here’s a tip: herbs grown indoors need to be watered much less than an outside plant. Be sure to check the soil before watering. If dry, water the plant completely giving it a good soaking. It’s better to water deep and less often than to water sparingly every day.

Find more instructions on how to safely bring in your herbs that are planted in the garden, so you can keep enjoying them all winter!

Lemon Verbena leaves on a dehydrator tray

2. Drying is another way to preserve herbs for use all winter. Electric dehydrators that have a low (80-90 degrees) or herb setting are best. Low heat allows the essential oils to remain keeping the flavor intact. Place the leaves or flowers in a single layer on the drying tray and follow your dehydrator’s instructions. Dry only one type of herb at a time, so the flavor is not compromised. Once dry, the herbs should be labeled and stored in airtight containers. Use in soups, stews and to make delicious tasting teas!

See step by step instructions and photos here.

Drying Thyme in a bag

3. If you don’t have a dehydrator, air-drying on racks or bundling may be the choice for you. Choose a location for drying that is warm, dry and dark with good ventilation such as a garden shed or attic. Pick the leaves and/or flowers off their stems and lay them in a single layer on a screen or breathable fabric. For drying small leaved herbs such as thyme, or for drying flowers, tie stems together with string and hang in small bundles upside down. See more how to’s and photos here.

Herbal Oils and Vinegars

4. A time-favored classic is to make herbed vinegars and oils. The herbed vinegars and oils are great for sautéing meats and vegetables, making salad dressings and marinades – anything you usually use oils for. Use decorative containers with tight fitting lids or corks and give as gifts from your garden.

See complete instructions and more how-to tips here.

Basil Paste

5. Another convenient way to preserve herbs is to chop and blend them with enough oil to make a paste. The paste can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month or in the freezer for up to six months. To use in recipes just plop spoonfuls into soups, stews, dressings and sauces. This storage method works for Pesto as well.

See step by step instructions and photos here.

Lemon balm ice cubes

6. Lastly, a quick and easy way to preserve herbs is freezing. Simply chop herb leaves and seal in bags or containers. This method works well for thin leaved herbs such as parsley, chives and cilantro. Unfortunately, frozen herbs become limp and sometimes discolored after thawing, so they are not suitable to use with raw foods. However, frozen herbs are excellent in cooked dishes or to make hot teas.

Find out how to use other herbs using this method by following these instructions.

When storing your garden fresh herbs, follow these guidelines for best results:

  • When storing dried herbs use glass, airtight tins, or wooden containers as opposed to plastic ones. Choosing dark, cool areas will help preserve color, flavor and essential oils. Herbs stored this way will be at their best for 6-12 months.
  • When storing frozen herbs, be sure to label your container to avoid confusion later. Unblanched herbs stored this way will last up to 6 months.

Whatever method you choose to preserve your herbs, gathering them now, before the frost, will help to extend your herb garden season.