Herbs in Winter: Taking Them In and Drying Them Out

Herbs in Winter

We’re clearing out our herb boxes as well as our gardens–but we also know that we have plenty of herbs that’ll survive this winter. In fact, a lot of herbs really enjoy being placed indoors near a window that provides lots of cool air. Basil is the only herb that we’ve always been warned away from for winter gardening. In contrast, we’ve had plenty of luck with cilantro, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives, mint, lemon balm, and more. Some excellent candidates for windowsill growing are thyme, chamomile, sage, oregano, basil, parsley, and chives.  [image via wikimedia]

Dry is better for those herbs, to the point that we use gardening pots that keep the soil dry. We’ve had our problems with trying to grow from cuttings, though. We prefer to use seeds. They don’t give us really impressive plants, but the herbs are great and often ready to harvest after just a few weeks. We don’t hold back on the seeding, though–and also do plenty of pinching.

Some herbs transplant pretty easily, though. Annual herbs can pretty much be brought up whole and put in a pot for indoors.We try to do some prepping first, and we still have some time in this zone to wrap fabric around the pot to keep pests out of the soil. Spider mites and aphids are usually the main culprits trying to sneak into our homes. We also cut back any foliage, since it never survives inside. The general rule, however, maintains that you never cut back chives, thyme, bay, and rosemary.

Sometimes you’re better off just harvesting an entire plant indoors–especially a more sensitive herb. Some perennials simply won’t make it through winter, and best work as dry herbs. You can hang lemon balm and lavender to make your kitchen smell heavenly, while using the dried herbs for flavorings. Mint is always great, of course, and stevia works really well as a natural sweetener.

Dried herbs don’t have to be so sweet, though. A strong sage makes for a wonderful dash of flavor in meat dishes. You’ll seem especially clever if you add it to your stuffing at Thanksgiving. The only real trick to keeping your dry herbs fresh is to have the plants exposed to lots of open air, and then take the herbs and keep them in vacuum-sealed containers to keep them fresh. Then you have some real value out of your garden, and a nice conversation piece over dinner.


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