Enjoy your home grown herbs all year round. Harvest throughout the growing season and include in garden-fresh meals. Then save a few for the coming winter.
Cut off a few leaves or leaf-covered stems as needed. For the same flavor intensity, you generally need 2-3 times more fresh herbs than dried ones (with the exception of rosemary, which has an equally strong flavor fresh or dried). So if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried parsley, use 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of fresh parsley leaves.
Continue harvesting herbs as needed throughout the growing season. And don’t worry about harming the plant, because regular harvesting encourages new growth, which means you can harvest more. Just make sure to leave enough leaves intact to sustain plant growth.
You can remove up to 50% of the leaves from established annual herb plants. This is around the time the plants reach their final height. You can remove up to a third of established perennials that have been in the garden for several months or more. Harvest when the plant has formed buds but before they open into buds for the greatest concentration of flavor. This is the perfect time to harvest herbs that you want to preserve.
Use pruning shears or bypass pruners for a quicker, easier harvest. Make your cuts over a set of healthy leaves to keep the plants looking their best. Then preserve the flavor and pungency of the herbs through proper storage and preservation.
Store thin leaf herbs like parsley and cilantro in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place the stems in a jar of water like a flower arrangement and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Store basil out of the fridge to avoid discoloration and others on the counter for quick and frequent use.
Wrap dry herbs with thicker leaves, like sage and thyme, in a paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and place in a warmer area of the refrigerator.
Freeze sprigs, whole leaves, or chopped clean herbs on a baking sheet. Or pack clean herb cubes in ice cube trays and fill the empty spaces with water. These are great for soups and stews. Store the frozen herbs and ice cubes in an airtight container or bag in the freezer.
Or bunch several stems together, secure with a rubber band, and use a spring-like clothespin to hang to dry in a warm, dry place. Make your own drying rack out of an old embroidery hoop, string and S-hook.
Get creative and use some of your herbs to make a fragrant edible wreath. Use fresh herbs, which are flexible and easier to shape into a wreath. They dry on the spot and can be harvested as needed.
Speed up the drying process in the microwave. Place the herbs on a paper plate lined with kitchen paper. Start with a minute or two on high. Repeat as needed for 30 seconds until herbs are brittle.
Store dried herbs in an airtight plastic or glass container.
Enjoy these garden-fresh flavors for the rest of the season. And consider saving a few for you, your family and friends to enjoy all winter long.