Last weekend, I visited Lockwood Lavender Farm during the Finger Lakes Lavender Festival and left with several fresh bouquets to dry at home. I arranged them into bundles, rubber-banded the stems, hooked jumbo paperclips through the rubber bands, and hung them off the utility shelf in my kitchen closet. Who knew you could do so much with a paperclip and a rubber band? Don’t fret! Such fun isn’t only reserved for lavender. Below are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way to stretch as much use as possible out of those big, beautiful bunches of herbs that come home with us from the farm.
- Treat fresh herbs like flowers. No, this is not a joke. You will routinely find vases of herbs around my little home in the summertime, and they make quite a fine substitution. All you need to do is collect the herbs into a little bundle, removing any leaves that would rest beneath the water. Trim the stems, and place your lovely arrangement in a vase. Place in a well-lit area at room temperature, and enjoy the lovely scents. Change the water regularly, continuing to trim the ends as needed and removing any soggy leaves that have crept under the water line. I’ve kept bunches of oregano fresh for cooking this way for three weeks!
- Wrap herbs in paper towels inside a sealed zip-lock bag, and store in the fridge. This approach is pretty straightforward. As long as the herbs are in a nice, moist, cool environment, they have quite a bit of longevity – up to 2 weeks! If you’re not a fan of herbal bouquets, this might be a better approach for you.
- Dry herbs for use all year long. It’s amazing how much money we spend on those little bottles of dried herbs when home-preserving is so remarkably easy. If you purchase a bundle of herbs so big that you couldn’t possibly consume it in a few weeks’ time, separate a portion. Rinse the leaves and allow them to air-dry on a clean towel. Collect all the stems into a bunch. For herbs with woodier stems, secure them with a rubber band. For more delicate stems, secure with string or dental floss. Then, hang that little bundle upside down in a dark area, like a closet, that isn’t too humid. (No basements for this kitchen experiment.) Herbs usually take approximately 2 weeks to dry, sometimes longer. You’ll know they’re done when they crumble at the touch. At this point, you can either crumble the leaves off the stems and store them in an airtight jar as is or use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle for smaller, more even pieces.