People have been harvesting herbs for many years. I love trimming my herb plants and drying their leaves for use during the winter months. Harvesting, drying, and storing herbs is very fun and easy!
I begin harvesting my herbs as early as mid September and continue right up until the first frost. Here are a few tips for harvesting your herbs:
- Trim your herbs throughout their growing season. You can use the fresh trimmings right away or save them for later by using some of the storing methods discussed later in this post.
- Harvest your herbs before they begin to flower. Honestly, I have harvested a lot of my herbs even after they have flowered, but harvesting before they flower makes the herbs have a better taste and nutritional value.
- Never trim back more than 1/3 of your herb plant. This will allow the plant to continue to grow even after multiple harvests.
- Harvesting your herbs after the morning dew has dried or after a recent rain may provide you with clean herbs that do not have to be washed before you store them!
- I use scissors most of the time for harvesting my herbs but some herbs can be hand picked as well.
Drying herbs is a great way to have a supply of herbs handy for both you and your chickens throughout the winter! Dried herbs are quite expensive at the regular grocery store, so drying them yourself is a great way to save money and spruce up your chickens’ diet and yours too! I have dried my herbs using two methods:
Method 1. Air Drying–
Air drying your herbs is a quick, easy, and simple way to dry your herbs. Start off by harvesting bundles of trimmings from your herb plants (remember, never trim back more than 1/3 of the plant at one time!). You can combine different herbs into different bundles or keep the same herb in one bundle. One thing to keep in mind though is that different size leaves dry at different rates. Tie string or twin around the bundled stems. Hang the bundles upside down in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. Your herbs are dried when the leaves can be crumbled with your fingers.
Tip: Here is a tip I use to dry my herbs faster! Take the partly dried herb bundles and separate the stalks. Dehydrate them using the method below for a short amount of time (2-5 minutes). Now the herbs are all dried and you can free up hanging space!
Method 2. Dehydrating–
Another fast and easy way to dry herbs is by using a dehydrator or a convection oven. I use a convection oven to dehydrate my herbs. Take your harvested herbs and lay them out on cookie sheets. Large leaves can be picked from the stem and laid on the sheet and small leaves can be left on the stem. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees F. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and use a small block of wood to keep the oven door open a crack. My small block measured 3/4x1x5 inches. Turn on the convection oven. Different herbs will require different amounts of drying time. Here are a few guidelines:
- Thyme, rosemary, lavender, oregano: 8-10 minutes
- Basil, sage: 10-15 minutes (if the leaves are not drying fast enough, you may want to increase the temperature to 200 degree F.)
Smaller leaves will need less time than larger leaves. When in doubt, go with a low number, than you can always add time as needed. The herbs are dried when the leaves can be crumbled with your fingers.
There are several ways that you can store your herbs depending on the method you chose to dry them. You can even store fresh herbs by freezing them!
Air dried herbs–
Air dried herbs can be stored just as they are, hung upside down in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. You can even place cheesecloth over the bundles to keep dust from settling on them. Or, see the tip mentioned above under air drying herbs!
Dehydrated herbs need to be stored in an air-tight container in a cool dark place, such as a pantry or basement. Remove any stocks or stems and place each herb in a container. If you know you will use a certain combination of herbs you can store those herbs in the same container. Try to minimize the amount of crumbling you do to the leaves. Whole leaves retain their nutritional value longer than crumbled leaves. Dried herbs will usually last about year before their nutritional value lessens and their taste diminishes.
Method 1. Freezing herbs is a great way to store fresh herbs without having to dry them. Lay the herb’s leaves in a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can move them into freezer bags or containers. Make sure you mark the bag or container with the name of the herb and the date that they were frozen. Take the frozen herbs out before you need to use them so that they have time to unthaw.
Method 2. You can also freeze herbs in ice cube trays! Place the desired herb leaves or sprigs into each ice cube spot and fill the tray with either water, olive oil, or coconut oil. Freeze the trays and once the cubes are frozen, you can pop them out and place them in freezer bags or containers for later use (don’t forget to label!) The herbs frozen in oil can be used for cooking or baking or even fed to your chickens on occasion! The herbs frozen in water can be added to your chicken’s water in the summer or unthawed and added to the water in the winter. You can also drain the melted water from the herbs, let them dry, and use them in recipes or in your chicken’s feed!
Herbs are a great source of nutrition and finding ways to dry and store them for later use comes in handy! With these useful tips, you should hopefully be able to use herbs in your cooking or baking and for your chickens all year round!
If you are wondering what herbs are beneficial for your flock, check out my post 7 Beneficial Herbs for Chickens.