Summer has finally appeared here in the Pacific Northwest with temperatures in the 90s I decided this would be a good time to dry some herbs in the garage given it was already at the right drying temperature without any heating required.
Here is the basic steps to harvest, dry, and store your own dried basil.
- 1. Pick and clean (optional) the leaves
- Start by trimming as much as you may need for the next month. If the leaves are dirty give them a quick rinse and pat them dry with a paper towel. If the leaves are clean you can skip this step. You want to pick the greenest leaves you can find. In my case many of the leaves were not as green as I would have likes (they are getting better now the weather is improving)
- 2. Strip the leaves from the stem
- Unlike oregano this part if very easy use scissors (or just pinch off with your finger nails.
- 3. Dry the leaves
- If you have a food dehydrator place the leaves in a single layer and set to 90-100 degree F for about 24 hours. Alternately you can also dry the leaves by placing them in a screen in a dry warm place. You will know they are down when the leaves are crispy and can be pulverized easily with your fingers.
- 4. Storing the leaves
- Now you have two choices:
- 1. Keep the leaves whole and chop them as you need them for added flavor
- 2. Chop them up using a spice/coffee grinder (or Magic Bullet with the grinding blade) and use them immediately as needed
As you can see the freshly dried basil (left) looks much better than the stuff hanging around in my spice rack, which was only a few months old.
Cloning herbs is an inexpensive and fast way to expand your herb garden. This is also a great method to possible give or receive (with permission of course) from friends/neighbors.
Unlike cloning other organisms, plants have a much simpler procedure you can do in your kitchen.
1. Take cutting from mother plant. Cut a stem of total length of about 4-5 inches, cutting 1/2 inch above a leaf node. The leaf node is where the leaves attach to the stem. You want to make this cut at 45 degrees with a sharp knife/razor blade/shears.
2. Remove 2-3 sets of leaves. You want the plant to concentrate of growing roots rather than leaves so you need to trim off the sets of leaves that will be in water/rooting medium.
3. Start rooting process. You can apply a rooting hormone if you wish but I have had great results without needing to do this. Depending on the type of herbs you need to place your cutting in simply a container filled with water or some sort of rooting medium (Coir/Perlite/Coarse Sand/Rooter Plugs)
Herbs to start in water:
Basil, Thyme, Mint, Oregano
Herbs to start in Rooting Medium:
Lavender, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Sage, Santolina, Savory, Scented Geraniums, Stevia
Water Only Care. With the water only option you should change the water every couple days and ensure that the roots are always under water. You should see roots in a week to a week and a half. After the roots are well established you can then plant outdoors or to a 4 inch pot.
Rooting Medium Care. You will need to water the plants daily to ensure there is adequate moisture. After a couple weeks you should see that the cutting has a well established root system and can be transplanted to pot or outdoors.
I use this technique to save some money by purchasing a single plant at the my local garden center and then cloning to fill the space to get the harvest I am looking for. One other idea is to plant fresh herbs purchased from the grocery store, success may vary but should be fun to try…
This is also a great technique to extend your fresh basil throughout the winter. At the end of your outdoor season take a couple cuttings and place in water indoors. Use the fresh basil and when the plant appears to weaken take another cutting and repeat the process. Fresh basil all winter and a good basil plant ready for next spring.