Herb Storage Wrap Up.

Now that fall is officially here I will have one final post about long-term storage of plants. Once you dry your herbs you want to store them. As I mentioned in my last post, an easy way to determine if your herbs are dry is if you can bend the branch and it ‘snaps’ it is dry. If it bends and does not break, it’s NOT dry enough for storage.

I think it is best to keep the plant as whole as possible so that you don’t break up cells and their contents. Glass mason jars are great for storing herbs. They are easy to clean, you can see what’s inside and the contents are protected from fungal spores. Any container that is airtight will suffice. Once dry you don’t want your plants to come in contact with the oxygen in the air as oxygen speeds up the breakdown of the plant material. No matter what container you use, you should always store herbs in a dark place because light-- especially sunlight will also speed up the break down (decomposition) of plants.

Long term storage is best in a freezer. To save space, you can put herbs in freezer bags if you don’t have room for mason jars in the freezer. I would double bag your herbs and make sure you get most of the air out. If you have a zip lock style bag, a trick I learned is to seal the bag up until there is just enough room for a straw in the bag. You then suck through the straw and suck out the air until the plastic bag pulls in on itself and clings to what is inside the bag. Then, quickly pull out the straw and finish sealing the bag. If it is sealed, the plastic should stay pulled against the contents of the bag. Repeat this with the second bag. If you have limited freezer space you could STACK the freezer bags on a shelf that fits in your freezer. Just measure your freezer and containers before you head to the local hardware store or office supply store. You may want to know that the coldest spot in your freezer is in the middle on the bottom. The worst spot for storage is on the door since you will open it up into the warm room every time you get something out of the freezer. Just like with seed storage  you want to avoid thawing and freezing, keep the stored herbs at a constant cold temperature.

No matter how well you master your drying technique, and even if you have a -20C freezer like most labs use for long term storage your herbs will start to deteriorate over time. Most growers I know get rid of their stored herbs when the new season comes in. Although you could use herbs for years if stored properly, most herbs don’t store well after a year. They are still edible, but they just don’t pack the same vigor and zest.

I am starting my indoor garden now. Some upcoming posts are: How to Speed up Germination, Setting up a Grow Room, Regeneration of Plants and I will talk about various pests like white flies and fungus. You can send any questions or ideas for posts to me at askthedoctor@htgsupply.com.

Indoor growing is so great, it does not matter what the season is you can always grow your favorite plants in the best environment any day of the year. Start with a great light and you will have a great hobby for life.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


hillbilly said...

hey Dr. Myers - would you strongly recommend using a vacuum-sealing "machine" (i've seen some commercially available specifically for vacuum-sealing mason jars) when putting jars to storage? also - would a refrigerated (not frozen) area preserve sealed mason jars containing dried herbs as well as a frozen area? if not, how much worse off am i storing the sealed jars in a refrigerator as opposed to a freezer?

. said...

YES! Vacuum-sealing is a great way to increase storage. I have a friend that does this, and after a year you really can't tell it is not fresh.
As far as where to store herbs, using a refrigerator is better than room temperature, and a freezer is better than a refrigerator.