As summer rolls into fall, we start working in our herb beds for prepare them for the winter ahead. We prune back perennial herbs like rosemary and oregano, add some of our compost and fertilizer (we like EcoScraps blend made for herbs and leafy greens!), prune any blooms, and start cutting to preserve them.
To preserve our herbs, we cut them, pull off any dead leaves or stalks, and wash them well and lay them flat on a towel to dry. After this, we either hang them to dry or freeze them.
After washing and drying our herbs, we hang them by their stem out of direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks until the leaves are crunchy to the touch. Place a cardboard box lid under the herbs to catch any leaves that fall. Once they are dry, de-stem them into a large bowl. For tea, you can leave the leaves whole, but for cooking, we like to run them through the food processor so they are smaller and more uniform in size. We store them in large canning jars in a cool, dry space and use as needed!
Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, so adjust your recipe accordingly.
If you don't have room to dry herbs, freezing them is a great option! Finely chop your clean herbs, spoon them into an ice cube tray, and cover with olive oil. Once they are frozen, store them in a zippered freezer bag. These herb cubes work great for salad dressings, soups, sauces and dips!
FREEZER HERB PASTE
1. Add washed + chopped herbs to a food processor with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. Optional add-ins: garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, shallots.
2. With the processor running, drizzle in olive oil (we use California Olive Ranch!)
3. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides. Adjust salt and lemon to taste.
4. Freeze in ice cube trays or small jars. Thaw as needed.
Rooting herbs for the winter
This year, we are experimenting with rooting herbs for the winter! We clipped a small piece, stripped off the bottom leaves, and placed the cutting in a jar of water and placed it in a sunny windowsill. We changed the water every few days and once the roots were developed we potted them. We plan on placing them in the greenhouse overwinter and planting them in our herb beds in the spring. That way, we will have fresh herbs over the winter, instead of only dried. So far we've tested basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, and thyme - all with success!