Replenishing the Herbal Pantry

This year, an additional cabinet is being used for the duplicate jars!

Autumn brings the last chance to restock the many jars and tins in the herbal pantry. Although we didn’t entertain this year, we also never ate out, so some of the jars emptied faster than usual. Out here in the country, we don’t have pizza delivery or UberEats (we don’t have Uber at all!) so if we want to eat, we cook! So this month, I did a record 4 jars of parsley and 3 of basil because we ran out so early this spring.

The usual herbs were dried, some just by hanging, some in the microwave or very low-temp oven (usually after something was baked just using residual heat) or in the dehydrator. I try to keep the herbs as “whole leaf” as possible. Chopping or grinding them opens up the oil sacs and allows all that flavor to escape, so keeping them whole until ready to use is best.

Cutting celery leaves removed from stems, and placed in the dehydrator. Cool, dried leaves are stored in recycled tins.

Herbs dried included parsley, cutting celery, sage, oregano, calendula flowers, marjoram, thyme and lemon thyme, hyssop, all the mints and the lemon and Mandarin Orange balms, winter savory, chamomile flowers, basil, lemon basil, clove basil, a few hot peppers, and lemon verbena. Normally, the herbs go in recycled jars and are stored a the kitchen cupboard where they are handy.

Coffee tins were pressed into service this year for “overflow.”

This year, since the quantity was increased some recycled coffee tins were put to use, and duplicate jars and tins were stored in a small cabinet in the entryway. As long as herbs are in a cool, dry, dark place they last a long time.

Mandarin orange balm was just hung in the Lady Cottage to dry. Then leaves were rubbed free of the stems over a large bowl. Now it’s ready for the tin, and later on, the teapot!

Earlier in the summer, elderflowers were also dried. Many of these herbs will be blended into teas for over the winter. I dried more than usual because with the virus sweeping the world, who knows if there were enough hands to pick those “tiny little tea leaves” for Tetley and all the other famous companies. I may be drinking more of my own blends than normal.

In addition to drying, sprigs of dill and snipped chives were frozen, along with flattened bags of basil processed with olive oil. Later, I can break off frozen bits into soups or pastas, or thaw the basil “paste” and mix it with cheese and nuts to make pesto.

Calendula petals are steeped in oil. Elderberries are made into cordials and syrups, as were some of the fresh elderflowers. Tansy, feverfew, mugwort and peppermint were dried and mixed as a moth repellent to put in drawers and closets.

Autumn brings on lots of seed collection: dill, coriander, parsley, fennel, nigella, and sunflower are dried, and nasturtium seeds picked while fresh are pickled as a caper substitute. When freeze threatens, the potted rosemary bush will be pruned a bit before it comes indoors, and all the prunings will be dried, leaves removed and jarred. The bay tree goes indoors in front of the French doors, where fresh leaves can be harvested as needed. The allium rack in the garage is loaded with braids of shallots, onions and garlics and topped with curing winter squash, and the garage pantry is loaded with pickles, chutney, relishes, sauces, jams and jellies.

It’s nearly mid-November, but there are still rows of parsley, large patches of dill, cilantro, lemon balm, Mandarin orange balm, thyme, and various mints to use fresh so there’s no need to open the jars or tins yet. But, we know the day will soon come when the herbal pantry will be needed. Forecasts predict a snowier, harder winter than the past couple have been, but we’re well-stocked and ready!

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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13 Responses to Replenishing the Herbal Pantry

  1. bcparkison says:

    Yea for who ever is a close friend and will enjoy your hard work.

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  2. Amy Rich says:

    That’s an impressive list of good things to have stored up! Mandarin orange balm sounds tasty. How do you use it during the winter?

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  3. I feel tired just reading all that! I have frozen chopped parsley but don’t drink herbal teas – maybe I should or will have to soon. You make me realise I could make better use of my plants.

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    • carolee says:

      It’s not all that hard, because it is done here and there through out the entire growing season. I remove leaves from stems when I watch tv or need a break from “real” work. I’m not a coffee drinker, and must watch my caffeine intake (I had 3 biopsies before I learned that giving up caffeine would pretty much eliminate their formation…haven’t had to have any in the last 25 years!) SO, that’s why I drink a lot of herbal teas, plus they aromatherapy and the herbs themselves are so beneficial. And there’s such a wide variety of tea herbs to blend in various combinations! I never get tired of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have found it helps to reduce my caffeine intake too so I use decaff tea and coffee but maybe I should try herbs instead. I have not found any commercial herbal tea bags I like except peppermint and in the process I have thrown loads of out of date bags away. I will have a go with my home grown herbs and see if they are better. Thank you for nudging me.

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  4. Your blog is amazing 🙂

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  5. Do you just freeze basil leaves or do you add them to oil first l? I have three basil plants about to call it a day on my kitchen window sill. Thanks for any advice!

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    • carolee says:

      I do a little bit of basil leaves packed in oil, but the bulk of the leaves are dried. I don’t freeze any, because they turn an ugly black, except when processed with a bit of oil and salt, which is then frozen in thin layers that are easy to break off a bit for a salad dressing, to drop into minestrone, or to make pesto. If you have a healthy looking bit of basil, I’d cut off a 4″ piece diagonally just below a leaf node on the stem, and root it so you’ll have a healthy plant this winter!

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  6. I have lots of calendula in my garden – it comes up every year. Most gets pulled out and thrown to the chooks or pig. But I’d like to be able to use it for something – what do you do with it?

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    • carolee says:

      I mainly use petals fresh in salads or sugar cookies, breads, etc. I do dry some for those same purposes, but the bulk of petals go into oil, which I use on my skin to keep pre-cancerous spots in check. I also use it in soaps.

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