It’s fun to grow herbs, and when you do it’s very easy to end up with an abundance. To grow them, all you need is a sunny spot, some rich dirt, and enough water to keep them going. You can grow them indoors or outdoors. But you can acquire your herbs other ways – from a farmers market, from a grocery store, from a neighbor. This post is about how to preserve leafy herbs, however you have acquired them, so that you have an abundant supply for yourself all year round, and plenty left over to create very special gifts for others. When I dry leafy herbs, I often end up with a five year supply. ‘Wait!’ you say, ‘herbs don’t last that long, their flavor diminishes over time!’ But honestly, it’s hard to tell the difference. I grow oregano, for example, about every five years and use it dried year after year. No one ever says ‘What’s wrong with your spaghetti sauce? It’s kind of tasteless this year.’ Nope, they rave over it, all the time. This post highlights oregano, but you can follow the same instructions for all leafy green herbs.
The pictures tell the story:
– Cut the herbs at the peak of ripeness – in the case of oregano, when the buds are formed but before they bloom.
– Lay them on a tray or a screen in the sun. You may also use a dehydrator, but for leafy herbs it is not necessary.
– When the leaves are crispy dry and crumble when you crush them, pick up the whole bundle and stuff it into a large paper sack.
– Close the sack and smash it flat – smash, smash, smash. This breaks the leaves off the stems.
– Remove everything from the paper sack. You’ll see the stems are separated from the leaves. Pull the stems out and discard.
– What you have left are leaves with little twigs scattered in among them. Pull out the twigs as best you can; little tiny twigs are just fine to leave in.
STORAGE & PACKAGING
Store the dried herbs in large glass jars until you are ready to gift package them in small jars.
To package, use spice jars. They really are the perfect container for spices: they’re small, tall, and thin so you can easily find them on the shelf and pack a lot of them in together. They make beautiful gifts, and they serve the cook well once on the shelf. You can get spice jars online from Specialty Bottle or Berlin Packaging, at a local discount grocery store, or find old jars at a secondhand shop.
To label them, use Evermine’s spice labels. You can order multichoice space labels, which means YOU CHOOSE the words that go on every single label. So you can get, for example, 10 oregano labels, 6 thyme labels, 3 rosemary labels… or whatever amounts you need. Just be sure to double up so that you have enough for the tops and sides.
The circle spice labels are my preference because they work both on the lid and the sides. It’s great to have them labeled in both places because it’s easier to find the one you’re looking for.
You will be so proud of the beautiful leafy dried herbs you have made, and your friends and family will enjoy using these herbs specially made for them by you.
Follow these instructions for all leafy herbs including: