Autumn is here and it is time for the harvest. If your garden included herbs — now is the time to reap the harvest before the frost comes. Herbs such as thyme and oregano, which are used for their leaves, are best harvested before they go to flower. Herbs grown for their flowers such as chamomile and borage are best harvested when they are almost in full flower. Herbs grown for their roots such as ginseng and chicory are best harvested after the foliage fades in the fall. Herbs grown for their seed such as dill seed are best harvested when the seeds turn from green to brown (but before they open).
There are several ways to preserve the harvest. If you have some closet space, you can hang the herbs. First, make sure the herbs are clean and dry. Then, tie loose bundles of 5-8 stems together with twine and hang in a warm (70-80°F), dry area away from the sun. Make sure that the herbs are loose enough to allow for good air circulation. To prevent dust from gathering on your herbs, place the bundles in paper bags with holes punched in them. Drying will usually take 2-4 weeks. If you are looking for a quicker method, herbs can be dried in just a few hours in a dehydrator set at its lowest setting (100-110°F), or in a conventional oven set at low heat (180°F) in 3-4 hours (with the door open). In both cases, it is best to remove leaves from their stems so that the herbs dry quickly and evenly. An even faster method to dry herbs is in the microwave. Place 4-5 branches of clean and dry herbs between two paper towels and microwave on high heat setting for 1-3 minutes. If herbs are not dry, continue at 30 second intervals. Allow herbs to cool between heating sessions so they dry completely.
Dried herbs are best stored in dry, air-tight, glass containers; although plastic containers or zip lock bags will also work. Another way to preserve herbs is to chop them, place them in ice cube trays, and fill the trays with water. These herb cubes are best used in cooking. For more great information on preserving your herb harvest try these great resources: