Herb Storage and Preservation 101

herb planter ready to harvest

Ready to harvest

Herb storage methods vary depending on the herb. Although (according to some comedians) “it ain’t rocket surgery,” it does help to have a few guidelines in hand.

Harvesting Herb

When possible, try to harvest before the herb flowers. For many herbs this will be in late summer or when the weather starts to cool down. Harvest after the morning dew has dried, in the middle of the morning but before noon. Avoid rinsing if at all possible. If you must rinse herbs, use cool water only and pat them dry thoroughly to prevent mold and rot.

Chives, Rosemary, Thyme, Low-Moisture Herb

Do not rinse. Wrap stems loosely in a paper towel then wrap loosely in cling wrap so that any moisture can escape. Store in refrigerator (in warmest area). Rinse just before use.

Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, High-Moisture Herb

Trim ends. Do not rinse. Stand stems upright in vase or water glass containing an inch of water. Keep at room temperature. Rinse just before use. This is called bouquet-style herb storage – here’s a very informative article.

Drying Fresh Low-Moisture Herb

Chop the leaves of cilantro, parsley or basil. Keep leaves whole for thyme and rosemary. Place leaves or chop on a plate and tuck it away in a cool, dry spot for about a week. Once dried, store in sealable bags or bottles and refrigerate. This technique works best for bay, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, summer savory and thyme.

To dry herb stems, select a half dozen evenly sized branches, strip the bottom inch of the branch and tie together at the very bottom. Place each bundle in a paper bag, tied end up top, and tie the bag closed loosely. Hang the bag upside down in a warm room, checking every week until herbs are dry and ready for storage.

Drying Fresh High-Moisture Herb

Preserve high moisture herb by placing in a dehydrator or by freezing. This technique works best for basil, chives, mint and tarragon. No dehydrator? Try stretching a layer of cheesecloth over a sweater rack and spreading your herbs out on top.

Bottom Line

It’s so simple to have a batch of fresh herbs on hand in your kitchen – not a lot of work and plenty of culinary reward!

Borage for Courage, Plant Lore and a Swoon

borage

Borage is great for planting in your vegetable garden

Borage appears in numerous old wives’ tales and plant lore recounts. Here’s a particularly entertaining one, just reprinted at Dave’s Garden:

Remember how it was when the guy you had been madly in love with for weeks suddenly looked at you and smiled? You were so giddy with joy, you practically fainted right where you were. Well, years ago, that kind of feminine reaction to rapturous excitement was called “swooning.” Aunt Bett had a sure cure for a swoon. Read the rest here.

Growing Borage

Borage is an annual plant which self-seeds quite nicely. It grows best in full sun but will do well in partial shade. At full maturity, borage will reach about three feet high and two feet wide. If grown in shade, it’ll be quite gangly and droopy when it flowers.

Borage does best when seeded directly into the garden. Seeds do best when barely covered with soil and kept well watered. If it is planted in poor soil, fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer designed for edible plants.

Borage blooms with clusters of downward facing vibrant blue star-shaped flowers in late spring through summer.

Planting borage near tomato plants is thought to deter hornworms and attracts bees, making it a very good addition to a vegetable garden.

Borage for Healing

Borage –Borago officinalis– is an annual that also goes by the names of burrage, blugloss and bourrache. As a herbal treatment it is known for its cooling, diuretic effect. Its oil is known as a skin treatment for acne and rash, particularly for delicate or sensitive skin. However, the herb in fresh form is a skin irritant and allergen. Use caution when handling borage and do not consume large amounts of borage leaves.

Herbalists and folk medicine practitioners gather and store borage for

  • blood clots
  • rheumatism
  • sore throat
  • varicose veins
  • diuretic
  • diaphoretic
  • expectorant
  • mouth infections
  • throat infections
  • facial steam
  • eyewash
  • mouthwash
  • gargle
  • poultice
  • inflammation
  • depression

Borage for Cooking

Borage flowers and leaves are edible and taste like cucumber. Harvest young leaves, though, since older leaves and stems are covered with a prickly fuzz. Borage can have a mild laxative effect, so use with caution.

Warning: Borage stems and leaves must not be used in large amounts or used frequently as the pyrriloizidine alkaloids present in the herb (but not the oil) act as a liver toxin and are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

Bottom Line:

Borage is a great addition to your vegetable garden since it is thought to attract bees and deter tomato hornworms, which makes it a great companion plant for tomatoes, strawberries and squash. Aside from its medicinal properties, it’s a lovely blue annual accent to a field of green.

 

I am not a doctor nor do I work for the FDA. Information on this site is for general use and must not be used to treat or diagnose medical conditions.