Saturday, November 10, 2012

How To Store Herbs For Year Round Use: Various Preserving Methods

Herb Preservation and Storage

For many of us that use various herbs throughout the year for herbal remedies and spices, we like to have a large variety on hand at any given time. It is important that herbs be stored properly.

We can obtain herbs by growing them, trading for them or purchasing them. An alternative that I enjoy is going out into Nature and harvesting wild herbs and edible plants which are discussed more in detail here: What Wild Plants Are Edible?

If your choice to obtain herbs from a local seller or even an online seller, learn where the herbs are grown, what kinds of insecticide are used along with how they are prepared before sales.

Of course herbs come in various parts such as the roots, the stems, berries, flowers and the whole plant. Out of these choices, you need to decide which part you want to use, which is normally based on what the intended purpose of the herb is.

When purchasing, you can buy the whole plant or the harvested parts of the plant. Yarrow, for instance, is often sold as a whole plant, however, many simply want the flowers, so that is what you would look for or specify.

One must use caution when some herbs that are low growing are bought simply because some pickers will not be careful with such things as ragweed which could possibly become mixed with the herb and create an allergic reaction to some.

Preserving the color and strength of herbs is very important when considering storage. One way to keep fresh herbs, as well as dried herbs, safely is in your basic brown paper bag, labeled of course. If you choose to store your herbs in jars or bottles, be sure to use amber or dark ones as this will block any light they may be exposed to. Some herbalists will recommend strongly to use only cork stoppers and not to use metal lids. However, in my instance, I use both. It is hard to store a large volume of dried herbs in a single jar that you will find a cork to fit. Of course, plastic lids would be better than metal.

According to many, herbs will remain potent for up to a full year when stored properly. Again, I don't agree or disagree, however, I have stored herbs for well over that period and they were still potent. The focus is on "proper" storage for a longer potency life.

If you are growing your own herbs, harvest them when they are at their peak, as they will have all the needed liquids in abundance.

Any flowers that you may harvest, you want to make sure that they are at a full bloom point, open, and that they are dry...Early morning is NOT a good time to harvest flowers due to dew.

With most other herbs, you want to follow the same guidelines, harvesting after any moisture is gone for the day, and a nice sunny day is best. Cloudy and dreary days are usually humid days, and there will be more moisture in the air.

There are various ways to dry herbs, and some examples are in the pictures in this article. One picture that is lacking is using the electric herb dryer/dehydrator . That is what we use here at home. It is round, plastic and has stackable trays so we can do quite a large variety or amount if needed, or just one or two trays for a light harvest. This suits our needs well due to the fact we are currently residing in a small apartment with no yard to dry things in the sun.

Hanging herbs are very popular as well as spreading them on white sheets or paper and letting them dry.

Happy harvesting, drying and storing your herbs for use year round!