Perhaps you grew some kitchen herbs this summer. If not, come up to Hilltop Gardens and Nature Center and check out the herb garden to see if this is something you might like to have in your garden next year.
If you did grow herbs, some will have already matured, since many finish their cycle in June. Others that got started later, such as our Mediterranean kitchen herbs, are ready to use. Enjoy fresh picking while you can, but do not let them flower. Pinch off or cut off any flowers and the herb will continue to produce more branches. Then find some ways to stretch the season. There are many ways to preserve herbs.
Humidity and light reduce the quality of good drying. For big-leaved herbs like basil or sage finding a dry, dark place is essential. If you have attic space, that may be the ideal site to hang your drying herbs. You can tie the stems together in small bundles so that the leaves get plenty of air. Tie the bundles with rubber bands that will tighten as the stems dry. String does not tighten, and the stems can fall out of string much more easily.
If you have small paper lunch bags you can create a light-protected environment. Just cut a few slits in the sides of the bag and put a bundle of herbs inside. Suspend the stems at the top of the bag wrapping by wrapping the outside of the bag with another rubber band. Then, you also have a ready-made hanger to slip over a nail or on a clothespin. As the herbs dry and the leaves detach from the stem, they will fall to the bottom of the bag rather than to the floor keeping them clean and contained. Herbs are dry enough when they are crisp and break easily.
Other herbs with smaller leaves like thyme, mint or oregano dry well just sitting on a paper towel in a shaded place. An air-conditioned house is perfect. Dry on the stem. When you can easily remove the leaves by pulling your finger back along the stem and they feel dry to the touch, you know they are ready.
Now here is a critical thing. Once you have gone to all the trouble of drying your crop, do not store the herbs in plastic of any kind. Storage in glass, and preferably, dark glass with a tight lid will protect your herbs from light and air damage. Plastic is too porous to protect the herbs and will also impart the smell of plastic to your herbs, essentially spoiling the sweetness of the essential oils.
If you have freezer space, one way to enjoy fresh herbs through the winter months is to freeze your fresh herbs. Just putting them in freezer bags will not yield good results. Fill the cups of ice cube trays with the amount of the herb you might use in a recipe. Then cover them with water and freeze. The cubes can then be put in freezer bags and the needed amount will be ready to pop into your favorite recipe.