Harvesting and Preserving Herbs

Oven drying: briefly and cautiously finish drying herbs in a 100 degree Fahrenheit oven or 125-150 degree Fahrenheit oven with the door left open a bit.

When herbs are dry from any of the above methods, they can be crushed, chaff discarded, and stored in airtight containers in a dark place.

Freezing: place clean, whole or chopped herbs into freezer bags. Or, puree herbs in blender with oil or water, and place in ice cube trays. Generally, blend 2 cups of washed foliage to 1 1/2 cups of water, or 6 cups of foliage to 1/2 cup of oil. Store bags or cubes in freezer.


  • Store dried herbs in air tight containers such as zip-loc bags or canning jars. Don’t forget to label and date them. Your herbs will retain more flavor if the leaves are stored whole and crushed just before use.
  • Discard any dried herbs that show the slightest sign of mold.
  • Place containers in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
  • Dried herbs are best used within a year. As your hebs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.
  • Use about 1 teaspoon crumbled dried leaves in place of a tablespoon of fresh herbs.

Common Herbs to Harvest and Preserve:

Herb What and When to Harvest How to Preserve

Anise – Flowers and leaves when seeds turn brown Screen dry

Basil – Prune top 1/2 of plants whenever lush growth before flowering Screen dry then oven crisp or freeze

Borage – Prune tops for early leaf harvest. Then, top half when flowering Screen dry leaves, freeze flowers in ice cubes

Chamomile (annual)

Chamomile (perennial) – Prune as desired if for ground cover Screen dry

Caraway – Seedheads when brown Screen dry

Catnip – Top half early and late summer before blossoming Bunch dry or bag dry

Coriander – Foliage as needed, but allow some to go to seed Bag dry seedheads or freeze

Dill – Top half of plants when seedheads are beige; may give foliage a light trim earlier Bunch dry or freeze

Fennel – Whole plant when flowering; may give foliage a light trim earlier Bunch dry or freeze

Lavender – Cut back top third of branches just before flowers open Screen or bunch dry

Lemon Balm – Top half early, mid, or late summer before flowering Bag dry or bunch dry

Lemon Verbena – Top half mid-summer and early fall before bringing inside Screen dry

Marjoram – Top third mid-summer and early fall before flowering Screen dry then oven crisp

Mints – Top half or more in late spring, mid-summer, and early fall Bunch dry, bag dry, or freeze in ice cubes

Oregano – Cut top half in summer before flowering, then again in early fall Bunch dry or bag dry then oven crisp

Parsley – Outer leaves when lush, leaving central growth Bunch dry, oven crisp, or freeze in bags or ice cube

Rosemary – Top one-fourth when established and lush Screen dry or bunch dry

Sage – Prune top third in early spring and again in mid-summer Screen dry, bunch dry, or freeze in bags

Savory (Summer)

Savory (Winter) – Prune tops lightly when lush growth in spring and summer Screen dry

Sorrel – Cut back flowering stems for later crop Use young leaves for cooking or freeze

Sweet Woodruff – Cut back half of plant when flowering in spring and repeat in early fall Screen dry

Tarragon – Prune top half in mid-spring, summer, and fall Screen dry, freeze in bags or cubes

Thyme – Top third in spring, when lush, and before flowering Screen dry   – Top 1/2 when flowers turn from gold to brown.Screen dry or bag dry – Top half in mid-summer and early fall before flowering Screen dry


This has been a guest blog by Anna Linder of Naturally Urban. If you would like to read more from Anna follow this link:

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About Anna Linder 2 Articles
Naturally Urban Merchandise Manager Anna has grown up in the gardening industry and is part of the 4th generation of Linder’s to be involved at a Garden Center in St. Paul, MN that has been around for over 100 years. While attending the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, Anna developed a passion for finding a way to get younger people interested in gardening. After graduating in December of 2011 and spending a year working full time, she and her brother (Dave) came up with a new concept called Naturally Urban. This concept is based on small space gardening and showing people how they can grow plants and make them function in small spaces. When Anna is not inspiring people to garden, she can be found enjoying the outdoors. Whether it be running, hiking, gardening, or spending time with her rescue dogs. If you wish to contact Anna, you can reach her via email at anna@linders.com. You can also follow Naturally Urban on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.