Growing, Drying, and Selling Herbs

Today’s article is where the thrifty kitchen, the organic garden, and working from home collide. These three areas of life unite in the herb garden. I began growing herbs because it made so much sense; I cook with herbs, and I have a garden plot—so why wouldn’t I just grow my own? I started my garden four years ago, and each year my perennial herbs have gotten fuller and more prolific.

This year, it occurred to me that I could sell my excess herbs. I have stock piles of dried herbs from the last few years. Last year I made up packets of dried herbs as gifts and still had a ton left over, so why not turn my herb garden hobby into a little extra cash?

The first step is choosing which herbs to grow. I have chosen to grow the herbs I use the most: oregano, sage, basil, and rosemary. In the past, I have also tried growing chamomile, cilantro, thyme, and dill. Additionally, my neighbor has a plethora of peppermint growing, and I have full access to it. I recommend all of these plants to you. Oregano, sage, chamomile, dill, and peppermint are all perennial—they will come back year after year. You need only cut them back at the end of fall, and the next spring some of them will be among the first plants to greet you in the garden.

In the fall, rosemary must be brought inside—in the north and the Midwest anyway. You can either dig it up from your garden, or simply plant it in a large pot to begin with, and let it lay dormant inside throughout the winter. Basil, cilantro, and thyme must be planted again each year, but they are not expensive, and can even be started indoors from seed.

Your next step is to dry your herbs throughout their growing season. Any of these herbs can be collected all the way up until they begin to flower and go to seed. Harvesting herbs throughout the season will make them hardy and healthy—essentially you are pruning the plant.

After you collect herbs, there are a variety of ways to dry them. I begin by filling up my sink and washing them. Then I put them upstairs in what used to be the attic; it still gets ridiculously hot up there on a warm day. My herbs dry out in no time in such a warm place. Some people lay out their herbs on a cookie sheet and set them in their car on a hot day. They dry out fast, and the herbs make the car smell great!

After the herbs dry out all the way, I label zip lock bags and put the herbs in them. As long as your herbs are totally dry, they will not mold. Another good option for storing dried herbs is in envelopes.

The final step is up to you. You can store your herbs and cook with them all year long. You can put them in pretty pouches and give them as gifts. Or, you can contact your local farmers market and find out what you need to do in order to rent a stall. At my neighborhood market, vendors can opt to rent a space week to week—we don’t have to commit to more than a week at a time. Since I only have about a week or two’s worth of herbs to sell, this works out perfectly for me.

Whether you cook with them, gift them, or sell them, I wish you lots of luck with your herb garden!

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