Preserving Summer’s Bounty: Drying and Grinding Herbs

As you may have noticed, I've begun a new series called Preserving Summer's Bounty, where I am creating photo tutorials of some of the different foods that I am preserving this summer, along with a variety of preserving methods. If you missed the first two, they are:

Beautiful Blueberries (freezing)

Blanching and Freezing Vegetables

Also related are my Bread and Butter and Dill pickle recipes, the two ways that I preserve all my cucumbers, as well as my previous tutorial on making pumpkin puree to freeze.

More posts in this series to come will likely include freezing garlic, canning tomatoes, canning fruits (like peaches or pears), canning blackberry jam, canning applesauce and making dried apples, dry storage for long-term veggies (squash, onions, garlic, etc.) and whatever else I find myself up to!

Dried-basil-going-into-coffee-grinder

Today, I just wanted to briefly show you what I do with my fresh herbs.

I should have taken a better photo of it, but you can still see some of my basil leaves sitting on my dehydrator tray behind the grinder. Immediately after I pick my herbs, I give them a good rinse (and a spin in the salad spinner, if they need it). I generally remove the stems and only put the leaves on the dehydrator trays. I dehydrate mine at around 95 F. You can do it a little higher than that, but a lower temperature helps to retain more of the oils in the herbs for better flavor.

For those who don't have a dehydrator, a tried and true method is to put the herbs into brown paper bags, and then seal and tie them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation. Once the herbs have fully dried (about 1-2 weeks), you can continue on grinding them as I do.

Grinding-basil-in-coffee-grinder

Once they're thoroughly dry, I pull out my trusty little coffee grinder (which has barely ever seen coffee, but sees a whole lot of herbs, nuts, seeds, etc.). I fill it up with dried leaves, and pulse it several times until I have a fine enough grind. I just continue doing little batches until it's done, and as I go along, I pour the ground herbs into either glass jars that I re-use, or sometimes little ziploc bags.

It's important to label them immediately, because although you might be able to tell what they are by the smell or sight, quite often ground green herbs look an awful lot like so many other types of ground green herbs!

I do this with pretty much any herbs I grow: basil, oregano, dill, mint, thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc. I can't really think of much that this wouldn't work with!

I store my dried herbs in my pantry, where it's dark, to help them retain their flavor longer. As my small glass jars on the counter are used up, I simply refill them from my pantry stash.

Though I haven't done so this year, one other method that I've used to preserve herbs was to take fresh oregano and basil leaves, and blend them up together. I froze this puree into ice cube trays, and then popped the herb cubes into a ziploc bag to keep in the freezer. This helped to retain a really nice flavor when I melted a cube into a spaghetti sauce or the like.

The wonderful thing about herbs is that anyone can grow them, no matter how small your home is or whether you have a yard or not! Growing your own fresh herbs makes such a difference in taste, whether you're using them fresh or dried.

Do you grow your own herbs? Which ones? What do you usually do with this excess herbs that you want to preserve?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. How are you. I would like to grind some dandelion and chickweed herbs. I would like to grind these into powder. Can yo tell what kind of coffee grinder I could use. Thanks.

  2. stephanie says:

    thank you for all the great information!
    Namaste’

  3. michelle p. from wa says:

    Hi ladies!
    I am curious, when freezing basil, is it better to do it in water or olive oil? Why is it not “ideal” to dry it rather than freezing? My basil is doing wonderfully this year and I don’t want to waste any of it. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated~!
    Blessings to you all!

  4. Thank you for such wonderful instructions- I can’t wait to see your additional tutorials on canning! Best wishes for you & your new addition!

  5. I have had success by placing them on a cookie sheet in the oven on the lowest temp with the door open. It only takes about 30 minutes to dry them out (if I remember right. It has been a while). They shrink a bit, but if you need herbs fast, it works well.

  6. Spinner, it’s not necessary to grind them. Sometimes I have stored them whole as well. I just like to have them all ground up and ready to go, but it would probably preserve a little bit more of the flavor if you left them whole or ground them right when you wanted to use them.

    And as for my grinder, I just wipe it out well with a cloth in between. The lid I can actually wash in hot water. I find that if I keep it wiped out well (and do it quickly) in between different herbs, it doesn’t retain too much in the way of scents or taste. At least, not to me, though some may be more sensitive to it.

  7. I’m going to try drying my lemon balm like that.

    Thanks!

  8. I have two questions:
    1. Why grind them? Would it be okay to store them dried and whole?
    2. How do you clean your grinder in between so that you don’t end up with the flavors from a previous herb or spice in the next herb or spice?

  9. This is the same way I do mine! It works really well. I ended up using small glass jars that I had leftover from salsa or other small food jars. I put my own labels on them and they are working great.

  10. Lat year I tried something new with my basil and it worked out pretty well. Any extra basil I chopped and put into ice cube trays and then filled those with water. When the cubes were frozen I put them into Ziplock freezer bags. During the year when I made pasta sauce I just threw 2-4 cubes in… or you can defrost first in a sieve if you don’t want the extra water.

  11. Nola, I can’t quite even picture the grinder you’re talking about. Is it similar to a coffee grinder, or is it something portable that you would put on the table at dinner? I would imagine that you could grind other types of spices, and perhaps seeds (sesame, sunflower, etc.) as well. If you’re planning to get rid of it otherwise, might be worth a try! I love finding new uses for something I didn’t really think was useful!

    Kate, I think it’s an equally great way to preserve herbs. I also freeze herbs myself sometimes, with good results and flavor. I just happen to like the convenience of dried herbs in my pantry, and my freezer tends to get full so easily (1/4 of a cow, tons of frozen fruit, soup broth, etc.).

  12. I’ve always just chopped and frozen excess herbs (dry, as opposed to the ice cube method) in a ziplock bag to ensure the contents remain airtight even as the supply is used up.
    I’m wondering what your thoughts are about freezing versus drying herbs, in terms of shelf life and flavour retention and preserving the nutrients.

  13. One thing I like to do with herbs that don’t keep as good of a flavor when dehydrated is to chop them by hand in a food processor and then add them to an ice cube tray with water and freeze. Basil, parsley and cilantro do well with this method.

  14. I have tried for a few years to grow herbs. I don’t know why, but they don’t work well for me. I think it might have something to do with the unsually cool (even for here) very wet (like rain every day) summers we’ve been having. I have tried inside too, and don’t find I have enough light (only east and west windows). Last year I bought a few transplants but the money spent wasn’t worth it for what I got. I found it very time consuming to take all the leaves off the stems, personally. I found what looked like a lot ended up with so little dried! Glad it seems to be working better for someone! I will keep trying.

    Question for you: what would you do with a electric pepper corn grinder. I was given one, and its second hand. If I can’t find a use for it (I don’t like black pepper so I only use the less-strong already ground kind, sparingly) then I am going to donate it. Any ideas? Would it work for this sort of thing?

  15. thanks so much for the lesson! i was going to do some research on this later today. perfect timing.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Our garden is full of herbs this Summer. My youngest daughter was looking for a business, so she has begun harvesting and drying herbs to sell. She is excited to work and earn some money for herself. It is fun to get the kids engaged in gardening. Anyone need organically grown basil?  If you want to try drying your own, simple instructions are HERE. [...]