The 10 p.m. news anchor had just announced a hard frost. The only sane and logical thing for me to do was to leap from the couch, grab a few ziploc bags, a pair of clippers and run outside in my husband’s jacket and a pair of slippers.
I had pushed my garden to its limit. It was cold and getting colder the herbs would not make it through the night, but I couldn’t bare to let them go to waste. So there I stood in the dark, hunched over my herb garden frantically cutting woody branches of rosemary, clipping scraggly stems of thyme and praying that the parsley and sage would make it. My hands were freezing and my husband was shaking his head in the doorway, but 10 minutes later I ran into the house victorious with four huge zip loc bags full of herbs. Well, herbs and dead leaves.
Little did I know on that fateful night three years ago that procrastination and a little bit of crazy would lead to the best way of preserving fresh herbs.
My herb garden is planted under the shade of a teenage Maple tree. As the weather cools the leaves drop and insulate the plants a bit. I like to think it extends the growing season for me. When I clipped all those herbs and shoved them haphazardly into the ziploc bags, I scooped up quite a few fallen leaves in the process. I was eager to reclaim my spot under a blanket and on the couch so I didn’t bother to pick the leaves out of the bags. Ever. Thanksgiving arrived and I retrieved fresh rosemary, parsley and sage from the bag to make stuffing and dress the turkey. Christmas came and I did the same. Sage is the first herb to die off followed by parsley but it lasted until the end of January and some even made it until Valentines day. The rosemary and thyme made it until March, by then I was only weeks away from the early growth of a new herb garden and didn’t mind the wait. My theory was that something about the decaying leaves some how preserved the herbs and kept them fresh. I repeated this process for the next two years and it worked both times.
I highly recommend adding dead leaves to your herbs when you cut them down for the year, maybe do it a little before the hard frost so you don’t freeze.