The Power of Fresh and Dried Herbs. Tea recipe included at the bottom.
All about fresh and dried herbs is what this article is about. Here I will teach you how to take care of your herbs, when to harvest, drying and storing and finally using your herbs.
To start off we will go through when it’s best to use fresh and dried herbs.
Dried herbs will never equal fresh in providing nutritive value. That doesn’t mean dried herbs have no place in the organic world. The opposite is actually true. The need for dried herbs equals that of fresh because of time, living and availability.
When to Use of Dried Herbs:
- When Winter covers the ground for half of the year.
- Living in an urban setting with concrete walls and no yard to have a garden.
- Wanting to keep your healthy diet or routine while on vacation.
Dried herbs work perfectly in these instances where fresh herbs might not be possible or available.
When to Use Fresh Herbs:
- There is no bad time to use fresh herbs. Fresh will give you the highest quality of medicinal, aromatic, and flavor in your herbs.
Knowing Your Herbs:
Any experienced herbalist will tell you that getting to know your herbs is the first step to growing an herb garden. This will ensure you know what you’re doing when it comes to making your own tea, poultices or tinctures.
Tammi Hartung, an herbalist from Colorado says this, “It’s better to know many uses for one herb than one use for many herbs.” Herbs are versatile and starting with just a few a person, through imagination and experimenting, can start creating incredible tasting beverages.
Once you’re more familiar with multiple herbs, that’s when you can start making medicinal formulas. Until then I would suggest sticking to the basics.
Helpful Tips to Create an Herbal Tea:
When starting to make herbal teas, here are some things to consider.
- Get to know how your herbs grow, smell and taste.
- Which ones will blend well, and which ones won’t?
- Have a plan or goal – for instance, you may want to make a tea that helps with headaches. Or, you might want to make a refreshing tea to enjoy on a hot Summer day or cold Winter night.
- As a base, use the stronger more dominant flavors and then add a secondary but not so powerful herb. This will help create an interesting aroma and flavor.
- Write down your blends in a journal so you don’t forget when you’ve created a tea masterpiece.
Finding the Perfect Blend:
Here is a list of herbs and spices to mix and match so you can, create basic blends.
Getting the Herbs:
- Most of these herbs can be grown in your garden and would be the best way since you will get the freshest herbs.
- Your local market or health food store.
Remember to look for the best quality herbs that are grown organically. The quality of your tea will depend on it.
Gathering or Harvesting the Herbs:
The best time of day to gather herbs from your garden is in the morning when the dew has evaporated. If you’re planning to dry your herbs, make sure they are not wet on the plant. If you’re using them fresh it doesn’t matter.
While harvesting, be sure to groom any dried leaves off or cut the tips when they start to flower. This will keep your plants healthy and vibrant.
You can use a basket to gather your herbs or another container that allows ventilation. Also, use a pair of scissors making sure you get a clean cut. Be sure to leave a couple sets of leaves on each stem so your herbs can continue to produce.
If you are using herbs for their aromatic properties, the best time to cut them is right before they flower. At this point, the highest amount of oil is in the leaves.
Using your Fresh and dried herbs:
- After harvesting, rinse fresh herbs with cold water and air dry or pat dry with a paper towel.
- Bruise or chop the herbs and put them in your teapot to boil.
- Measure the number of dried herbs needed.
- Keep them out of direct light as they will last longer and hold their properties.
How to Dry Herbs:
Using the oven
- Once you’ve harvested them, brush the insects and dust off.
- Heat in the oven at no more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the oven door open as some leaves dry faster than others.
Air drying by hanging your herbs or using a rack
- Be sure when air drying it is in a cool non-direct sunlit place.
- Also, make sure it is free of insects and moisture.
- When hanging, place a small bunch of herbs together and tie with a cord or band of some kind.
- If you have insects or dust place your bunch of herbs in a paper bag being sure to punch several holes around it to prevent moisture and mildew. You can also use a mesh bag.
When using a rack, spread your herbs out evenly and leave spaces so air can flow in between.
How long does it take?
- Depending on your climate, it can take 3-7 days to dry herbs using the hanging or rack method described above.
How do you know your herbs are fully dried?
- When pinching a leaf if it crumbles easily it’s dry.
- If the leaf still has a bend and does not crumble it needs more time.
Storing your Dried Herbs:
- Herbs, when properly stored will last one to two years.
- Be sure to date your jars so you know which ones to use first.
- Glass or metal is the best way to store your herbs. Amber glass bottles are preferred because it prevents light and keeps the herbs’ vitality.
- If you don’t have amber glass be sure to store in a dark area out of direct sunlight.
- Double check to make sure your herbs are dried, so mold will not start.
- Use an airtight container to keep insects and dust out.
- Immediately after drying, your herbs should be stored. This preserves the oils, texture, flavor, and color.
- Check your jars frequently to make sure there is no condensation.
- Be sure to separate your herbs and label each jar.
- Again, store in a cool, dry and preferably dark place. A cupboard or pantry work great.
Freezing your Fresh Herbs:
Freezing works well for some herbs. Lemon balm, mint, rosemary and dill to name a few.
- Pick the desired herbs, wash with clean water and pat dry.
- Chop or leave whole.
- Place the herbs in a Ziploc, or airtight bag. You can also put herbs in ice cubes or butter before freezing.
- Pull out when needed and enjoy.
With the information given to you in this article you now know enough to start your own small herb garden.
- Flowers are best harvested when they are the loveliest and smelling amazing.
- Waiting too long past their prime will give you less quality.
- When removing, lightly shake to dust off and remove any insects.
- To dry follow the same instructions given for herbs. If you are drying loose flowers without their stem the paper bag method is great, just be sure to shake the bag one to two times a day allowing for air flow.
- Laying them on the rack where air can circulate around them is also ideal for rose petals and other type petals that are delicate.
- Seeds are best gathered when they are barely ripe. This means when they are starting to look brownish.
- Early morning is the best time to pick your seeds.
- Cut the entire seed head and drop it into a bag or you can cut the whole plant and put it upside in the bag.
- Put in an airy warm place but shady spot and let the seeds fall to the bottom of the bag as they dry.
- Seeds, when stored properly, can last for years. They have a natural coating protecting the inside oils.
Some roots need to reach maturity before cutting and or digging. This could be years in some cases so be sure you know your plant and or find out if you have already planted and are not sure.
- Horseradish like other root plants are best harvested in the Fall.
- When harvesting, gently dig up the plant.
- Shake off the dirt.
- Cut off only what you need. Be sure to leave enough roots to keep the plant supported and growing.
- Place the plant back in the ground.
- Wash your roots you plan to use in cold water, trimming off little tubers that have started on the sides of the main root.
- Split the root in half and chop.
- Keep them coarsely chopped while they dry. This will preserve their flavor.
- Once dry, you can powder them in a coffee grinder or other machine and store as you would your herbs
- Roots will last two to three years when properly stored.
To take it a step further here is a tea recipe. This will give you something to look forward to once your herbs are ready for harvest.
Languid Lemon Stress-Away Tea
Recipe by-Jeanine Pollak
This tea is delicious iced or hot and can be enjoyed daily. It’s wonderfully nourishing and supportive, toning and strengthening the whole nervous system.
*1 part means equal amounts.
- Lemon balm leaves, 1 part.
- Lemongrass leaves, 1 part.
- Lemon Verbena leaves, 1 part.
- Oat straw, 1 part.
- Passiflora leaves, 1 part.
- Rose hips (organic), 1 part.
- Skullcap leaves, 1 part.
- Orange peel (organic), 1/8 part.
- Combine all the herbs in a pot and cover with boiling water.
- Stir well, cover, and steep 15-20 minutes. Steeping the rose hips preserves the vitamin C better than decocting does.
Fresh and dried herbs can be used to promote Health, for use of Culinary dishes, and for aromatic pleasure. They are natural and, in my opinion, the best way to help your body. They are not hard to grow, but they do take time and patience, especially when making remedies.
If you are new to the herb world or have now just decided to dig a little deeper, I hope this article has helped you and will be a guide for you as you learn more and take steps to becoming a gardener for your health and body.
If you have any questions about fresh and dried herbs, please send me a comment or message me at any time.
Keep growing in knowledge -Heather Earles