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An herb garden is a delicious addition to any homestead. But what do you do with a bumper crop of oregano, basil, or lavender? Don’t commit the deadly sin of letting your fresh herbs go to waste! You can easily dry today’s fresh herbs to add a splash of seasoning to tomorrow’s home-cooked meals.

How to dry herbs

Before drying your herbs, it’s important to remember that every herb is different. Some herbs, like basil, rosemary, and oregano, have hardier leaves and dry very easily. Delicate herbs like parsley or lemon balm require a more tender touch during the drying process. Know what you’re working with and adjust accordingly! You don’t want moldy or flavorless herbs.

Be sure to harvest your herbs before they bolt, or flower. Once they go to flower, the flavor and texture won’t be the same. Keep the leaves on stems or stalks if possible; they’ll be much easier to work with.

Gently wash the herbs with cold water. Spread them out on a dry kitchen towel and let them dry completely at room temperature. You want as little moisture as possible for the best results. Toss any discolored or squashed leaves.

Tie the herb stalks or stems together with kitchen twine or rubber bands, with about six stems per bundle. Fill a brown paper bag halfway with the herb bundles and fold the bag shut. Don’t overfill your bag! You want enough air to get to the herbs to remove moisture.

Now it’s time to play the waiting game. Store the sacks in a dry, dark cabinet for 2 – 4 weeks until the herbs are totally dry. Once the herbs have dried to your liking, remove the leaves from the stems and process if necessary. Give herbs like basil, parsley, or lavender a good crushing in a mortar and pestle or food processor.

Once the herbs have processed, it’s time to get to the fun part: cooking! Store the herbs in glass Mason jars to preserve their flavor for up to one year. If you still have more herbs than you can use, they make great great gifts!

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Four Frugal Homesteading Tips

Homesteading isn’t the easiest job in the world, and it often comes with unexpected costs. To make the most of your homesteading efforts while guarding your finances, it’s important to put everything to use. Here are a few of my favorite tips for keeping homesteading easy on the wallet. Add yours in the comments!

Get outwheygeous

I’ve been making my own yogurt for several years. I like to strain the whey from my yogurt for a thicker, Greek style yogurt. But what to do with the strained whey? Don’t toss it! You can use whey as a substitute for water in bread recipes (hint: it also results in a nicer crumb structure and rise). Livestock like pigs adore snacking on whey and will eat it up.

Snout to tail

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but if you raise animals for food, it’s so important to use every bit of the animal. It respects the animal’s sacrificed life and ensures you get the most bang for your buck. For example, all parts of a chicken, including the feet, beak, and feathers, can be repurposed.

Deep freeze

Canning and preserving are fantastic ways to enjoy your summer harvest all year round. But freezing is also a great option to preserve your food, particularly if you raise animals for meat. Invest in a high quality vacuum sealer to preserve your ham hocks for next Easter with zero problem. You don’t want to go through the trouble of raising an animal, only to have the meat ruined by freezer burn!

Think scrappy

Do you have vegetable scraps left over from making dinner? Great! Don’t throw them away. You can compost vegetable scraps, as well as feed them to chickens or turn them into homemade vegetable stock. Don’t let one carrot shaving go to waste; every cent matters on the homestead.

The bottom line

There are so many ways we can keep costs low when raising animals and plants on the homestead. Use these quick tips to rein in costs while enjoying the simple life!

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