Probably the most common way to preserve herbs is to dry them. It is easy, inexpensive and retains a higher percentage of the plants natural oils. I managed to film a video with my camera but it is too large upload so we will have to go with the still picture below. It shows all the steps involved in the process.
Step One is to pick your herbs. This is fresh young stinging nettle and yes, it stings so pick carefully. Mid morning is best. That will allow the dew to dry on the plants and be before the herbs will wilt under a strong sun. Picking before any plants have bloomed is also your best choice as the plants will have the highest levels of micro-nutrients. Thank the herbs for their life energy. Let them know you are grateful and if you get any nudges to leave a plant or a branch alone, follow the guidance.
Step Two – Check for unwanted bugs, separate the leaves from the stems and clean off any dirt. Separate out any less than healthy leaves before drying. The leaves in the picture are drying on upcycled window screens that allow free air flow. They are set in a warm dry cupboard and will be done in about three days.
Step Three – Once dry, check for any mold and discard any leaves, if found. Store herbs in labelled air tight containers. In the picture above, a chopper has been gently used to reduce the size of the dried stinging nettle leaves. If possible. store leaves whole as they will retain more flavour. Crush as needed.
Step Four – Store in a cool, dry, dry place and use within a year. Lack of colour is an indicator of lack of flavour.
Another option is to gather the herbs together as above. This is a mixture of lemon verbena, mint, nettle, cleavers and lavender for a tea. It is amazing and disturbing to see fresh lavender in this part of the world in May.
There is a twist tie at the top of this bunch of herbs. You can also use string or a rubber band to hold the cluster together. Remember that as the stems dry out, they will shrink so the tension can loosen and the herbs can fall. Check every few days and tighten as needed.
Some people like to leave the herbs to dry as is and others prefer to place the herbs upside down in a paper bag that has several holes in it. The open section is then closed around the top of the bundle where the twist tie is and the entire bunch of herbs is enclosed by the paper bag.
Make sure there is space for air to circulate around the herbs and label the bag before putting the herbs in so you can keep track of all your work.
Leave the herbs for a few weeks checking regularly until dry. Remove the leaves (and in this case the blossoms) from the stems and store as per the instructions above.
Herbs have wonderful micronutrients in them that aid the body. Learn more about individual characteristics before deciding what the best combinations are for you.
Not all herbs mix well together and some are not good for pregnant women, so please be informed as you collect and enjoy natures gifts.
What do I do with my herbs? Drying from My Kitchen Wand