Savoring herbs: Potted plants or preservation?

Filling our gardens with herbs in spring and summer is a gift that keeps on giving. We get to harvest fresh culinary herbs for our favorite dishes and sip homegrown herbal teas.

As temperatures cool, it’s hard to think of parting with such a satisfying ritual, but you may have experienced, as we have, that transplanting established plants into pots and bringing them indoors doesn’t always play out.

Plants have a tough time transitioning from ground to pot and from outdoors to indoors.

With limited space inside that gets natural light, it’s important to choose wisely: What will succeed as a potted plant, and which herbs are better off preserved? 

Here are a few tips to help you decide which plants to pot up and which ones to harvest now for wintertime enjoyment.

These tips are based on our Zone 5 climate. You can adjust the specifics of each herb according to your hardiness zone, but these general ideas should still apply to your area.

Perennial herbs in the ground

Many herbs, once established, will survive winter outdoors. Some of our favorite perennial culinary herbs include sage, oregano, winter thyme, winter savory and wild marjoram. Every year, these plants will grow bigger and healthier, so it’s best to leave their roots intact as we move into fall.

Harvest perennial herbs heavily a few weeks before the first frost and preserve them for winter. 

Dry herbs like these by bundling them and hanging the bundles upside down. Once completely dried, store dried herbs in glass jars or cleaned spice jars.

Preserve the taste of these wonderful herbs by creating herb-infused cooking oils: Infuse fresh herbs in olive oil or sunflower oil for 4-6 weeks, then strain out the herbs.

Preserve herbs for tea.  You will appreciate a hot cup of tea as the weather changes.  Harvest and dry your mint, lemon balm, chamomile and basil two you will have a winter supply of  healing and calming teas.  

Brew the following teas: 1 TBL of dried herb to 1 cup of hot water. Store in a clean sealed jar.

Lavender Mint Tea: 1/2 cup dried mint 2-3 TBLS of Lavender Buds. Brew for 3 minutes.

Lemony Hot Tea: 1/2 c dried mint; 1/2 c. lemon balm; 1/2 c. lemon grass. Brew for 3 minutes.

Soothing Basil Tea: 1 TB of dried basil to 1 cup of hot water. Brew for 30 minutes.

Fresh Herbs or Semi-tender herbs like chives, parsley, chervil, mint and cilantro can be chopped and stored in the freezer. Basil pesto also keeps well in the freezer. You can also make Asian pesto  by using Thai Basil.  A great addition to vegetable  stir fry and curry.

When you’re preserving, don’t forget to label everything along the way.

Perennial herbs that are happy in the ground will likely do best if they stay in the ground. Harvest annual herbs even more heavily, as you’ll be pulling them out soon.

But what about perennials that are already in pots?

Bringing in potted plants

For foodies, Rosemary is a culinary must-have. But for us in Zone 5, it’s a plant that doesn’t always survive winter outdoors. We keep our Rosemary in pots in the greenhouse to enjoy it year-round, year after year. Lemon Verbena and Lemongrass are also worth keeping alive because they can thrive in pots – and because they are just so delightful.

Be selective when it comes to bringing in potted plants, as good lighting is limited indoors. Fertilize each fall with fish emulsion to keep plants healthy. Keep soil moist, and give them a good soak every week by watering them thoroughly over the kitchen sink.

By being selective about which herbs you put into pots and which herbs you preserve, you can enjoy more homegrown herbs throughout the year with more success.

For more preservation tips, check out this blog post from last summer – Preserving the harvest: Our three favorite ways.

 

*Enter to win our FALL GIVEAWAY!*

What did you love growing most this year? What would you like to see in our nursery this spring? Tell us in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win:

  • Olive Oil and Lavender Healing Balm,
  • Organic loose-leaf Balancing Lavender Tea
  • Ashdene’s lavender mug and infuser
  • $25 Gift Certificate to our organic plant nursery

 

Every comment counts as an entry. Good luck, and thank you for sharing your favorites with us!

Categories: Blog

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