what to do with herbs at the end of the season

Just because we visited a marijuana farm over the summer does not make us experts on “weed.” So if you’re growing pot this is not the place for the best advice… although it’s probably harvest time for all such plants! We couldn’t resist the picture!

If your herb garden really did well this summer like mine did, you can probably feel that change is coming fast as the season winds down.

All herbs in the garden are either perennials or annuals. Perennials such as thyme, oregano, chives, sage, mint and lavender don’t need to be replanted because they return year after year without much work.

Annuals such as basil and cilantro won’t survive a Chicago winter so they must be replanted each spring. The keys to enjoying your herbs till the last minute and preparing for next year are:

Act soon

Herbs don’t like cold temperatures. So when it starts getting into the 40s, it’s time to deal with them.

Bring them indoors

Rosemary is an ideal plant with which to do this. It can be a perennial or an annual, depending on which zone you live in, but it’s always a safe bet to bring them inside in their pots if you have the space. Set them in a place where they’ll get a lot of light.

Harvest your herbs

When you harvest, you can trim your plant to the ground. If the herb is a perennial, it’ll come back in the spring. If it’s not, you can always save the seeds from the plant and use them next spring. The best  time to harvest your plant is in the morning, right after the dew has dried from the leaves, but before the full sun hits the plant. This is when the oils are in the leaves, and the herb is its most fragrant and flavorful.

Dry your herbs

If you want to dry your herbs, there are several ways.

You can air-dry them, microwave them, put them in the oven on low, or use a dehydrator. 

If you want to air-dry your herbs in bundles, tie the clippings together with twine or string and hang the bundles in a dry location.

Since the stems of herbs can become woody and bitter, many people prefer to dry only the leaves to avoid that bitterness. 

You can do this laying them on a window screen. This allows air to reach the leaves from both sides, and they’ll dry out faster. Dry them until they are crumbly.

Once they’re dried, you can store them in Mason jars.

For maximum flavor, store the leaves whole. By not crumbling them until you are ready to use them, the oils in the herbs are better preserved, creating a more potent herb flavor.

Make pesto!

This is one of my favorite recipes for pesto. You’ll need to buy kale if you didn’t grow some in your garden, but it’s a great way to use up the basil!

Or make any sauce you love in small enough quantities and freeze them. That way you’ll have your favorite pesto or sauce all winter long!

Right now I’m crushing on this roasted chicken recipe made in a clay pot with fresh herbs from the garden.

And if you make it, be sure to save the carcass to make soup with yet another handful of your harvested herbs!

Comments 3

Michelle on

I brought my herbs that are in pots in this week. Not quite ready to make and can my pasta sauce. As soon as I am done with that, I clip the rest and put them in a dehydrator and place in spice jars. Sage and tarragon are in the ground and come back every year.

Donna on

Thanks for all this useful information. I just brought my herb pot in and hope to keep harvesting rosemary, oregano, and basil as long as I can. The rosemary plant did well inside last winter, and went back out on the deck this spring. The oregano, I dried, and the basil got used in salads until it dwindled completely.

mark payne on

Thanks for this….. all of our herbs did do very well this year and we are getting ready for the frost coming up later this week!

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