by Carol Miller
After having taken the time to grow your own herb garden, you will want to make use of them. Following are four ways you can preserve your herbal plants.
Pick your plants early to mid-morning after the dew has evaporated and before the sun gets too hot and draws out the oils from them. Never mix different varieties of herbs. Keep them separated and tied in small bunches which can be hung up in a well-ventilated warm place with as little light as possible. Any corner of a room or cupboard or closet will do so long as it is warm and dry. Any moisture will make the leaves go mouldy. They may take from 4-5 days to a couple of weeks to dry.
When completely dry, store the leaves in layers in a box separating each layer with tissue paper. Keep the box in a warm and dry place where no mice or insects can get inside. Air drying is used for most herbs that are used in pot-pourris or herbal teas.
Herbs can be dried in a microwave but you will have to experiment. Try a few leaves at a low setting for a couple of minutes. Note how well the leaves are dried and add or subtract a few seconds to get the exact timing and results that you want.
Freezing can give herbs a better flavor if you intend on using them for culinary purposes. Remove leaves from the main stalk, wash and dry if necessary. Pack into small polythene bags. Keep in mind that once defrosted, herbs will not keep. So only pack as many in each bag as you think you will need for whatever you are going to use them for.
Silica Gel Crystals
Use this method if you want to use the flowers of the plants for pot-pourris or decorative flower arrangements. Lightly wire the flower heads before they are dried so the stems can be extended after drying if necessary. Push a lightweight wire through center of each flower and trim so it is no longer than 2 inches at the most.
Silica gel can be purchased from floral outlets, garden centers or chemists. Make sure the crystals are as fine as possible and dry.
Fill a plastic airtight container to a depth of about 1 inch with the crystals. Place each flower on the crystals and cover gently with more crystals, filling in any gaps or crevices. When all is covered, replace lid and keep in a warm, dry place. After about 2 or 3 days, carefully unpack and store in an airtight container with a little silica gel in the bottom to prevent any reabsorption of moisture.
Before using, you may spray the dried flowers with polyurethane varnish to help prevent the moisture from returning. However, if the flowers are kept in a warm temperature, this should not be a problem.
Not all herbs will respond to this treatment, but it is worth seeing which ones will.
Mix two parts boiling water to one part glycerine (sometimes equal amounts of each work better, you will have to experiment). Fill a narrow container to a depth of 3-4 inches with the mixture. If stems appear woody, smash them and stand them in the glycerine mixture out of direct light. It takes a minimum of 4 days to 2 weeks for the plants to take up the glycerine, some may even take longer.
The plants will visibly change color as it absorbs the glycerine. Remove the plants from the mixture when beads of glycerine are visible at the ends of the leaves. Wipe away any excess glycerine with a soapy cloth before leaving them to dry. Then store in a box away from light and moisture.
About the Author
This article written by by Carol Miller. For free information on growing and cultivating various herbs and vegetables, please visit www.bricabrackorner.com/Vegetables and Herbs.htm.
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