Prepping the spice cabinet for winter

A big plate of oregano

As the weather cools it is time to trim back the spice plants and dry out the remaining leaves for use over the winter. I like to over cut whenever I use a spice so I have leaves drying pretty much all summer long.This also helps to encourage the plants to produce more while growing.

Drying out spices is a really simple process. Place the leaves on a plate spread out pretty much in a single layer. Place the plate in a dry place out of direct sunlight and wait until done, about 2-3 weeks. Store in a containers until ready to use. You can crush the spices so they take up less space in the containers or not. It will seem a slight disappointment when an entire plate of leaves dries into a small mound, but remember that dried spice is more potent than fresh. Spice dried from the garden is also better than the dried spice from the store.

It is important to cut back all the growth on oregano, mint, sage and thyme if you want the plant to come back the next year. Rosemary can be left alone in my region, but I do not like to cut anything from the plant in the winter so I make sure to dry out a good amount of spice during the summer. After cutting them back cover with fresh potting soil and wait until spring for a new plant to emerge from the soil.

Sage, rosemary and oregano finished

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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84 Responses to Prepping the spice cabinet for winter

  1. Erin Renee says:

    On Facebook?! Oh no you didn’t! I’m going NOW…

  2. rutheh says:

    I can almost smell that lovely plate of spices. Imagining crumbling them between my fingers and the lingering scent. Did you ever saute sage leaves? I think that is a Mary Ann Esposito recipe.
    I have posted some of your posts on FB and think you have some followers from that effort but am going to find you there now. Rosemary can’t stay outside here!

  3. Very smart. I guess now that I don’t have access to Penzeys anymore, I should consider drying herbs when they are abundant.

  4. Fb, huh? Movin’ on up. πŸ™‚

    Love the spices idea. Now if I only had plants… haha.

  5. Kristy says:

    I’m going to reference this next year for sure…I WILL plant herbs next year. I WILL! (I’m not yelling at you – just at myself.) πŸ˜‰

  6. Congrats on being on Facebook :). I started one but haven’t finished completing the design I wanted. I may just scrape that plan because real life is kicking my butt lol. Love the dried spices.. I definitely have to try this like Kristy said lol

  7. JamieAnne says:

    Looks like you’re getting a lot done!!

  8. secretmenu says:

    This is such a useful post! So, naive question: do you cut back the plants completely, or just leave a few inches, or what?

  9. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for the helpful tip! I knew it was good for that plants to cut them back, but I didn’t want to waste any of my herbs. I should try drying them, and just cross my fingers that my cats don’t find the plate and start eating the leaves…. πŸ™‚

  10. Good information. Over the next few weeks I shall start on my spice drying enterprise. Excellent post.

  11. Cool, hope to have you link up on my fb page too.
    Have a happy day.
    πŸ™‚ Mandy

  12. I am so jealous. I know you have earned the right to these fabulous homegrown spices…but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a little green with envy, does it? Gorgeous photos.

  13. It’s so great that you don’t let anything go to waste! We are lucky that our winters are very mild, temps in the city practically never drop below 0C so all our herbs are always fresh for the picking…

  14. ChgoJohn says:

    Drying herbs. A sure sign that Fall is on the way.This sure beats buying that stuff on the grocer’s shelves. No telling how long it’s been sitting there.

  15. Alli says:

    You are such an inspiration, drying your own herbs! I am slack and buynfrom the store once mine wither away

  16. spicegirlfla says:

    Great tips on drying herbs! Even tho I can grow herbs all year I still do like to dry some, just as you said they are so much better than buying storebought dried. I use dried herbs almost as much as fresh. I see your on all the sites – StumbleUpon, Digg….I need to get myself updated too as soon as I figure out how to use all these!!

  17. ceciliag says:

    I have a wee tip for you re: drying parsley or cilantro. I cut big bunches of it, (do not wash) pop it into a paper bag, tape it up and leave in the back of the refrigerator for a few months, It will dry, keeping its colour and taste and it works like a charm every time. You can jar it, or just keep dipping into your bag. c

  18. Daughter #2 has a spice garden, a very cute triangle off her patio. I have to ask her if she has oregano.

  19. Rachel says:

    FaceBook is all well and good, but still no scratch ‘n sniff… dang! (grin) I’ll have lots of basil in ice for my “winter” (such as it is here) cooking. Just chop the basil, pack it in ice cube trays, fill with water, freeze. Add the “ice cubes” to tomato sauces in January and sniff happily!

  20. Karen says:

    Cutting all of my herbs back today as we are going to have frost in a few days. Will be drying, making herb butter, and several types of pesto.

  21. nrhatch says:

    Thanks! Glad to see that you’re accumulating FB fans at a steady clip. πŸ˜€

  22. It’s sad to be realizing that winter is coming πŸ™‚ but always good to be prepared! I have also frozen herbs before, which I sometimes do instead of drying for a bright burst of flavor.

  23. niasunset says:

    They are so nice, I love them all, I drink sage tea right now (I brought them from the Mount Ida) and how smelling so nice… These herbs should be in every kitchen… Thank you dear Rufus, with my love, nia

  24. Eva Taylor says:

    Hi Greg, I’ve never had a lot of luck with home dried spices…they seem to get moldy, I guess it must be too humid here to do it right. Our sage this year is super gigantic…the leaves are the size of the palm of my hand! Will give it another go. Thanks for the inspiration.

  25. I didn’t realize that sage would come back! Duh. Very good to know–thanks for the information!

  26. Laura Parisi says:

    This is such a good idea. My herb garden is exploding right now, and somehow I’ve never thought to dry them. Although, where I live (Oregon), many of my herbs stay alive year-round (sage, thyme, rosemary, etc.). Question: why don’t you like to cut your rosemary in the winter? Is it not as tasty?

  27. Courtney says:

    Now I know what we’re doing this weekend. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the quick tutorial and reminder.

  28. Amy says:

    I wish I had fresh herbs to dry…so much cheaper than buying the jarred stuff (and fresher since mine are probably 10 or more years old!). Great tutorial.

  29. Such great tips on drying spices. I am going to try it your way with some of mine. Thanks for sharing this.

  30. Another great idea, Unfortunately I (and the desert heat) usually kill my plants but it’s good to know what to do with them!

  31. Sara says:

    I know that I don’t get as good use out of spices as I could because I’m not cutting as aggressively as I should be. I’m getting a little less gentle year by year. Am curious about your directions for winter–to cut back hard and then cover in potting soil? Do you mean the whole plant–must be misreading? How much growth to cut off? I brought my thyme and rosemary in for the winter. My roesmary got leggy but survived and now looks great, my thyme dried up and died (or went dormant but I just tossed it in the end and never found out). I think there are better techniques though…

  32. Sissi says:

    I have also started to dry my herbs, mainly because they started to have flowers and I have read that it spoils the taste (certainly my chives became strange).
    Your method works when the sun shines and probably is the best one where you live (how I envy you the sun for so many months!!). I confirm what you say about one’s own herbs: even the dried herbs from my balcony taste 100 x better than those bought in bottles.
    If I don’t have enough sun I dry my herbs in the oven. I put it at the lowest temperature and dry for a couple of hours. Usually two days are enough. I do the same with mushrooms.

  33. ....RaeDi says:

    I wonder how many sage plants in my past I let go because I did not know I could cut back and cover with soil? I have not grown herbs for a couple of years now (health) hope to next year! I buy fresh at the market and when I buy a lot… more than I can use I take and put the left overs in paper bags and put on top of a high shelf, they dry perfectly. Like with sage I dry and add it to another bag that is just sage, they are real handy when I do not have fresh or need more and it rotates them nicely (kind-of fresh dried year round)….RaeDi if I were on facebook I would add, one of these days I may go back, I had a site but closed it a few years back! I am on twitter, but I never go… I need to start keeping up better!

  34. Caroline says:

    Hooray! Glad you’re on Facebook now. I created a fan page not too long ago and was actually looking for yours and obviously had no luck. Makes sense since you didn’t have one! Awesome post, btw. If only I had a herb garden…

  35. You’ve inspired me to get to work on my own garden. Thanks!

  36. Very envious of you that your rosemary plant will survive the winter, as this Cali boy is still getting use to the winters in Utah.

    BTW..welcome ot Facebook.

  37. This post reminds me to move splits from my herb garden to the new house. Do you know if it’s ok for the plant this time of year? I’m clueless.

    • I’m really not sure. You’re so far north of us. If it’s dormant, probably not. Is there a county extension service you can call. I’ve used those for questions down here. I know, it sounds archaic, but they’re such a great resource. Plus they all have websites too.

  38. Charles says:

    Ooh, thanks for the tips – a good reminder that I should do something with my mint and thyme before it all dies off, and actually use the basil I have out there too, thanks πŸ™‚ (one “Like” incoming too πŸ™‚ )

  39. Great information. oh, and I’ll be sure to check out the facebook page.

  40. Raymund says:

    I should have done this before winter here in NZ, well i can do it before next winter

  41. Ah, you’re so good to get a jump on your herbs!

  42. Great can’t wait to “like” you on FB! Thanks for the tips on drying herbs, I should know better to save them and dry them since I grow them in my garden and in pots on my back porch! I think having 3 kids sometimes keeps me from getting things accomplished in a timely manner! Note to self, tomorrow start collecting herbs to dry for winter! Thanks for this money saving tip!

  43. Jason says:

    Thanks for this. I was just about to spend $300 on a dehydrator to dry my herbs! I think I’ll try it your way first.

  44. Mel says:

    I recently deleted my Facebook account, or I would certainly Like your page! A hundred times over.

  45. ambrosiana says:

    Welcome to the Facebook club!!! Jajaja..Drying herbs is such a clever idea. Bravo!!

  46. That’s great that you have all those herbs to dry. i haven’t seen fresh oregano before.

  47. The herb I dry the most is mint and a little sage to add to tea (have you every had sage with tea…mmm)
    It is kind of disappointing how much they shrink but it is worth the trouble

  48. Ritchey needs to read this post – cutting back and covering our plants will save when time for next year’s planting! Great ideas! And I will see you on FB!

  49. Have you ever used a dehydrator? (I got mine at a yard sale for $5.) We dry mushrooms with it, but haven’t done any herbs. We are guilty of letting our herbs go to waste that we get them from our CSA share; but seems like it takes a bit of space to have the plates out for a few weeks.

  50. Pingback: fill ‘er up. [stuffed pasta shells w. prosciutto, ricotta & mushrooms] «

  51. TTV says:

    Hi, came across your blog. I grow spices too but living in Florida, mine do better in the winter and usually dry up and die in the hot summers. Never thought about drying my own. I just usually throw them out and replace them again in the fall. No more! I will be drying mine to get me through the summer. Thanks and I’ll be sure to check out your other recipes. Got any vegetarian/vegan ones? I’m in the process of making a life change in the “what I eat” category.

  52. Pingback: fill ‘er up. [stuffed pasta shells w. prosciutto, ricotta & mushrooms] | Sweet Carolines Cooking

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