It’s time to be drying herbs
The chives and comfrey are already flowering; the dandelions, chickweed and nettles have been trying to take over the yard. I’ve already harvested about a pound of dandelion root, about ½ of what I’d like to dig up and get put away for the year. Last year’s dill re-seeded itself with a vengeance and I have enough dill to last 3 years! So the dehydrator is going just about every day now, just trying to keep up with all the spring bounty.
Herbs should be picked in the morning. Pick after the dew is dried off in the sun but before the heat of
the day causes all the oils to evaporate. The oils carry most of the flavor and goodness of herbs, so you want to preserve that as much as possible.)
Most herbs do not need to be washed. In fact for some,like basil, washing is not good. So just trim off any bad leaves, separate out the grass or weeds that may have come in with the herbs and put them in the dehydrator. Dry them on low heat (100-105º) for 4-10 hours. When they are dry, crumble them up on wax paper, removing as much of the woody stems as you can. Using the wax paper like a funnel you can then pour the herbs into a jar and store.
It’s that easy.
Be nice to your herbs
Light and heat are your herbs’ biggest enemies. Both light and heat quickly destroy the color, flavor and goodness of herbs. That’s why I like to store them in dark colored glass. My favorite jars are the 1-quart glass jars that Ovaltine used to come in. But Ovaltine has gone the way of the world and now sells their product in plastic. (Blech!) You used to be able to buy yeast in brown-colored glass jars, but now that’s also plastic. I searched the Internet for brown colored glass jars and found SKS Bottles. They have a great selection of glass jars and bottles as well as other cool storage containers. Their prices are about the best I’ve found and service is great.
BUT…the largest brown-colored jar they have is only 9 ounces—a little less than 1 cup. They fill up fast and then take a lot of room on the shelves. I still love SKS Bottls. I still order from them for bottles that I use for tinctures and herb-infused oils and vinegars, jars for salve and tins for tea and gifts.
But for my kitchen herbs…
I still wanted dark colored jars that would hold a lot of herbs (or at least enough for a month’s worth of cooking) and that was looking more an more like unicorn. I simply couldn’t fine the perfect herb jar.
Then one day my genius husband asked “Why don’t you just paint jars brown?” Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? (He really is smart!) I already had cans of black and navy blue spray paint and several bottles of acrylic craft paint.
With three boys going through Cub Scouts doing Pinewood Derby Cars, Space Derby space-ships and Rain-gutter Regatta boats, I had a wide assortment of colors too choose from.
So now I’ve made my own dark-colored glass jars to store herbs. And I have to say, I love seeing them all lined up on my shelves at the end of summer. It’s a fun project to involve your children in—you’ll have little masterpieces that are also quite useful.
Here’s how I do it:
First, remove the labels and thoroughly wash the jars. When they are dry, mask the top edge of the jar. The lids will fit better if they don’t have to be screwed over layers of paint. And besides, you don’t want little paint chips getting into your herbs.
Spray paint the jars, using any dark color. I just happened to have blue and black on hand, but I think brown, dark green or a rust color would all be pretty (while effectively blocking the light.)
When the spray paint is dry, begin painting your jar. You can label them if you like, or just paint generic patterns or designs. You might not know how many jars you need for parsley or dill, so it might be a good idea to leave some nameless. I sometimes use chalk to sketch out my design on the jar. That makes it easier to center the writing or make sure I have enough room for the design. The chalk will rub off or sponge off easily.
When the spray paint is dry, begin painting your jar. You can label them if you like, or just paint generic patterns or
designs. You might not know how many jars you need for parsley or dill, so it might be a good idea to leave some nameless. I sometimes use chalk to sketch out my design on the jar. That makes it easier to center the writing or make sure I have enough room for the design. The chalk will rub off or sponge off easily.
When the acrylic paint is dry, spray paint the jar with a clear acrylic coat. This will prevent the paint from being rubbed or scratched off and will make washing easier.
Remove the masking tape and wash the jars in warm soapy water. When they are dry, they are ready to store herbs.
See how fun and pretty that is? Now, don’t you want to go make your own collection of herb jars?