How to store fresh herbs from the garden?

Fresh herbs can accumulate quickly in your refrigerator, whether you have a bunch of fresh herbs from the farmer’s market, your garden or the grocery store we are sharing tips on how to store them in your refrigerator so they remain fresh for as long as possible! If you are looking for how to preserve fresh herbs in your freezer, see this post!

How to Store Fresh Herbs So They Last

Using fresh herbs is a great way to brighten any dish and bring it from just ok to wow! But sometimes a little goes a long way with fresh herbs and you can be left with a whole lot leftover from one recipe. Or you have an overabundance of herbs from your summer CSA or your backyard garden and want to make them last as long as possible. We’re sharing all the ways we’ve succesfully stored fresh herbs in the refrigerator to get the maximum use out of them. If you are looking for ways to preserve fresh herbs in the freezer to last all year, check out this post here.

There are two main ways we recommend storing fresh herbs for maximum longevity in the refrigerator. But how you store them depends on what type of herb it is! Soft herbs, or herbs with a soft stem, such as cilantro, dill, parsley, basil should be stored liked fresh flowers, in a jar of water. Hard herbs, or herbs with a hard stem should be stored rolled in a slightly damn paper towel in a bag in the refrigerator.

How to Store Soft Herbs: treat as flowers

Storing soft herbs in jars with water prolongs the life of the herbs by keeping them alive like flowers.

Pro-tip: Don’t wash these herbs until right before use.

To store parsley, cilantro or dill cut off 1” of the stems and place in a jar with water and store in the refrigerator. We found it unnecessary (and wasteful) to place a plastic bag over the top of the herbs as they stayed just as fresh without one. Check and replace water as necessary, or every few days. Store until the leaves start to turn yellow or very limp, about 2-4 weeks (seriously).

To store fresh basil: cut off 1” of the stems place in a jar with water and store at room temperature just like fresh flower. Refresh water as necessary, or every few days. Store for about 1 week or until the basil has turned soft and limp. Please note: this only works with very fresh basil cut from a garden or the farmers market. The boxes of basil that you buy in the store is typically grown in green houses and are not hearty enough to be stored for longevity. Store bought green house basil must be used within a few days before it starts to go bad.

How to Store Hard Herbs: prolong moisture content

Storing hard herbs in damp paper towels prolongs their moisture levels and keeps them fresher, longer. You’ll notice there is one herb included in here that is not technically a hard herb: chives. Chives last the longest when they are frozen, see this post, but they can have a longer shelf life in the refrigerator when stored the same way as hard herbs.

To store sage, thyme, rosemary, mint, or chives: Clean and dry the herbs very well (see below for cleaning tips). Place in a pile in a slightly damp paper towel and wrap them up. Place inside of a plastic bag with a few punctured holes. Keep in the refrigerator about 1-2 weeks or more.

The Best Way to Clean Herbs

Herbs can be very dirty and gritty, whether coming from the supermarket or the farmer’s market. The best way to clean herbs is to fill up a big bowl with clean, cool water. Dunk the herbs in the water, letting all the dirt and grit sink to the bottom a few times. Empty the water, fill it back up and repeat until no sand or dirt remains at the bottom of the bowl.

It is best to dry herbs in a salad spinner. If you do not have that you can let the herbs dry in a clean kitchen towel, taking off as much water as possible.

Recipes that feature herbs:

  • Sheet Pan Cod with Vegetables in Lemon Herb Sauce
  • Sheet Pan Root Vegetable and Sage Pesto Salmon
  • Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
  • Spinach Basil Pesto

The Best Way to Store Herbs

Basil, Parsley, and Cilantro

A fresh bunch of basil can be treated like a bouquet of flowers: Just trim the ends, place in a glass with an inch or so of water, and place on the counter at room temperature. (The leaves will turn black if refrigerated). The basil will remain fresh for anywhere from a few days to a week. You can also try this with similar long-stemmed herbs like parsley and cilantro.

Chives, Thyme, and Rosemary

Other herbs, like chives, thyme, and rosemary, require a slightly different approach. Wrap them loosely in plastic wrap and place them in the warmest part of the refrigerator; one of the compartments in the door works perfectly. Do not wrap the herbs tightly or the trapped moisture may cause them to mold prematurely; many people like to add a crumpled paper towel to the bag as a safeguard. Do not rinse the herbs until just before using.

How to Dry Fresh Herbs

If you have more fresh herbs than you can use, dry them. Place the leaves on a plate (chopped if using basil or parsley; whole if using thyme or rosemary) and set aside in a cool, dry place for several days. Then store them in a resealable container in the refrigerator.

When to Pitch Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are no longer fit to use and should be discarded when the leaves turn dark or brittle, or the stems begin to show traces of mold.

Ever wanted to grow your own herbs? Us too! So we’re starting our very own indoor garden in the TODAY Kitchen!

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Fresh herbs can add pop to all kinds of foods. But, with so many varieties, uses and techniques, we felt that we needed an herb cheat sheet. Luckily, Sur La Table national chef Joel Gamoran is stopping by to give us — and you — a crash course on cutting, storing and cooking with fresh herbs.

Dried Herbs vs. Fresh Herbs

Growing your own herbs means you’ll always have fresh herbs on hand for recipes.Featurepics stock

There are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, dry herbs are best added during cooking while fresh herbs are best added at the very end to finish a dish. Are you are wondering if you can replace fresh with dry or vice versa? Unfortunately, you can’t always. Dry herbs are much stronger in taste and won’t have the same effect as the fresh ones.

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Woody vs. Soft Herbs

Woody and soft herbs require different kinds of prep.

Woody herbs are ones that must be plucked off their tough, inedible stem. Think rosemary, thyme, mint or oregano. Soft herbs are ones in which the stems are edible, such as cilantro, parsley, basil and chervil.

Maureen Petrosky / TODAY

White Peach and Basil Sangria

Maureen Petrosky

Storing Herbs

Fresh herbs like to have a bit of water on them at all times. When you come home from the grocery store (or after picking them from you garden), wet a paper towel and wrap up the stems in a little bundle. Toss that in a plastic bag or container with a couple of holes in it to allow the herbs to breathe. If you do this, your herbs will last much longer.

Chopping Herbs

NEVER chop soft herbs more than once or twice through. The more you chop them, the more you will bruise the leaves and the natural oils and flavors will get lost. Woody herbs, like rosemary, can withstand a rougher chopping without losing their oils.

Casey Barber

10-Minute Cod with Parsley-Walnut Pesto

Casey Barber

Swapping Herbs

Sometimes you just don’t have, or cannot find, a particular herb for a recipe. Here are some easy swaps that work well:

  • cilantro and parsley
  • mint and basil
  • rosemary and thyme
  • oregano and marjoram
  • chervil and tarragon

  • For the freshest dill, harvest sprigs early in the morning and freeze them right away.
  • Fresh herbs often get marked down at the grocery store. If you’re not into gardening or don’t have the space or proper garden conditions for herb gardening, snatch up reduced-price packages of dill and freeze them.
  • Dried dill is also handy to have on hand. Just hang small bunches upside down in a warm, dry room, and leave them there until they feel dry to the touch. It may take a week or two for them to dry completely. Once you’re satisfied that the bunches are dry, place a plate or cookie sheet on the table in front of you. Then, working above the plate, run your hands along the sprigs to strip the dill. Gather all the dried dill that fell onto the plate or cookie sheet. Transfer it to an air-tight container and store it with the rest of your dried herbs and spices.
  • Dill is an annual, but it re-seeds readily. If you’re growing your own, allow it to go to seed at the end of the season. It’ll drop seeds into the soil so you don’t have to buy more next year.

Can You Freeze Dill?

Dill is an aromatic herb that’s been extensively used in cooking for decades. Native to the eastern Mediterranean, dill is typically used to flavor fish, poultry, and meat dishes. This grass-like herb has a tangy flavor that adds depth and character to soups, stews, casseroles, dips, and sauces. The flavor of dill is so popular that dill pickles became widely popular because of this herb!

Suffice it to say, dill is one of the most versatile aromatic herbs out there and it’s not surprising that most people stock up on this herb for future uses. But can you freeze dill? Yes, fresh dill can be preserved through freezing.

Dill isn’t available all year round and if you love to cook, stocking up on fresh dill is a great idea. This way, you have a steady supply of your favorite herbs all year long. That said, it is important to prep the herb first prior to freezing otherwise, dill will lose its flavor.

Image used under Creative Commons from Stacy Spensley

Unfortunately, dill is quite a delicate herb. Once dill wilts, it goes bad within just a few hours. When kept in the fridge, fresh dill keeps up to 10 days. Freezing helps keep dill’s freshness for longer. Freezing dill at 0°F, the herb will keep safe indefinitely.

However, it’s best to use up your supply within a couple of months just so the herb remains flavorful. Below is a step-by-step guide on how can you freeze dill:

How to Freeze Dill?

Unless you grew the dill yourself, do not rinse the herb prior to freezing. Rinsing the herb with water will only accelerate spoilage because of the excess moisture. Store-bought dill has been cleaned well and is ready for cooking or freezing without extra rinsing. That said, you could rinse the herb if it is full of critters or dirt.

After giving fresh dill a good rinsing, lay the herb on a clean cloth while patting with paper towels to wick away the excess moisture. If you’re freezing whole stalks of dill, there’s no need to cut the whole stalks before freezing unless you’d like to keep them on a per serving size. Just place the herb, stalk and all, in a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag and stick it in the freezer.

For dill that’s already been chopped, our advice is to transfer the herb in an ice cube tray. You can also do this if you’d like to keep the dill in serving size cubes. After transferring the dill in the ice tray, pour water then stick in the freezer. Once the ice cubes are frozen, take the ice tray out, remove the ice cubes from the tray and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Then, stick the plastic bag of frozen herb back in the freezer. Whenever you need dill for a single dish, just take a couple of ice cubes.

Image used under Creative Commons from Dianna Ott

Committed to preserving the vibrant color of the herb as well as maintaining its plant enzymes? Try blanching dill first prior to freezing. Blanching is a cooking method that requires shocking veggies with boiling water for a few seconds to boost their color. After blanching, pat the herb with paper towels then you can pack the dill for freezing.

How to Defrost Frozen Dill?

Defrosting frozen dill is easy. Just transfer a portion of the frozen herb in a saucer then stick it in the fridge to defrost for a few hours. Once the herb thaws, use right away. Defrosted dill is perfect for soups, stews, and dips. Do not re-freeze defrosted dill because the herb will lose its flavors once it’s left standing at room temperature for too long.

Summary

Freezing dill is a great idea during the winter months when supply is scarce. With this guide, you can now keep a large batch of dill all year long! Do you like dill? We hope that this guide has helped you preserve your favorite herb the right way!

How to Freeze Fresh Dill

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Traditional methods of preserving dill include gathering several bundles and hanging them to dry. Although this is the preferred method for dill to be used in pickling, it is not the only method of preservation. Freezing is gaining popularity due to the ease of preparation and use, particularly if dill is to be used as a seasoning for fresh soups and sauces. According to Joanne Austin, from Washington State University, freezing also locks in flavor.

Harvest dill before it blossoms for best flavor. Pick in the morning when it is at its freshest by clipping the sprigs of dill weed close to the main stem of the plant.

Rinse the sprigs of dill under cold water to remove insects or garden soil.

Grasp the dill sprigs with a set of tongs and dip them into the water to blanch. Allow them to boil for a moment or two until the dill changes color. Blanching stops the enzymes responsible for maturing and preserves both the appearance and flavor.

Remove the sprigs and cool them under cold running water or by placing them in a bowl of ice water. This cools the dill quickly, preventing it from continuing to cook.

Blot the dill dry with a paper towel.

Place the dill in freezer bags and and seal securely. Force out excess air as you seal the bag to avoid freezer burn.

Remove the dill whenever needed and chop it to add to sauces or other recipes.

Adding herbs to your dishes is a wonderful way to enhance their flavour and taste. But buying a packet of fresh herbs from the supermarket can often end in half-used packets rotting away in the back of the fridge (that’s if you don’t grow your own, of course).

If you want to save some money and stop food wastage, then a brilliant idea is to start freezing your herbs and using them in your cooking from frozen.

It’s good to use them fresh when you have first bought them, but then, rather than storing them in the fridge, pop them in the freezer, Metro reports. This way the herbs stay fresh for up to 12 months rather than a few days in the fridge. Freezing them is also better for retaining the flavour compared to other preserving methods and you’ll be able to use them all year round.

Add the frozen herbs to your hot cooking and the taste will be no different. But, although the frozen herbs do keep their flavour, it’s important to note that they do change in colour and decrease in attractiveness. So frozen herbs do not work well as a decorative garnish.

William ReavellGetty Images

Top tips for freezing fresh herbs

Expert website, Gardening Know How, have suggested some top tips on how to store your herbs.

  • Chop the herbs into small pieces as it will make them easier to use later on.
  • Sprinkle the cut herbs on a metal baking tray and place this in the freezer. Doing this will speed up the freezing time and prevent the herbs sticking together.
  • Another way to store chopped herbs in the freezer is in ice cube trays. Fill the remaining cube space with water and freeze. This method is great for when adding to soup or stews as the extra water will not be a problem or affect the food’s taste.
  • Once frozen, place the herbs into a plastic freezer bag (£8.99, Amazon).

To find out some of the best herbs to grow in your garden, see our advice here. If you want to set up your own mini herb garden, here’s how to do it.

Freezing Herbs – How To Keep Cut Herbs In The Freezer

Storing fresh herbs is an excellent way to make the herb harvest from your garden last all year round. Freezing herbs is a great way to store your herbs, as it keeps the fresh herb flavor that can sometimes be lost when using other herb preserving methods. Keep reading to learn how to freeze fresh herbs.

How to Freeze Herbs

Many people are looking for how to keep cut herbs so that they can use them year round. Freezing herbs is fast and easy to do.

When storing fresh herbs in your freezer, it ‘s best to first chop the herbs as you would if you were going to cook with them today. This will make it easier to use them later. Keep in mind when freezing herbs that while they keep their flavor, they will not retain their color or looks and so will not be suitable for dishes where the herb’s appearance is important.

The next step in how to freeze fresh herbs is to spread the chopped herbs on a metal cookie tray and place the tray in the freezer. This will ensure that the herbs freeze quickly and will not freeze together in a large clump.

Alternatively, when preparing for storing fresh herbs in the freezer, you can measure out typical measurements, like a tablespoon, of the chopped herbs into ice cube trays and then fill the trays the remaining way with water. This is a good way for how to keep cut herbs if you plan on using them frequently in soups, stews and marinades where the water will not affect the outcome of the dish.

Once the herbs are frozen, you can transfer them into a plastic freezer bag. When storing fresh herbs like this, they can stay in your freezer for up to 12 months.

Freezing herbs is an excellent way for how to keep cut herbs. Now that you know how to freeze herbs, you can enjoy the bounty of your herb garden year round.

I love cooking and baking with fresh herbs. Whether it’s fresh rosemary for rosemary sea salt flat bread or sage and thyme for Instant Pot whole chicken or a blend of herbs for 15-minute Italian meatballs, fresh herbs add a huge flavor punch.

As much as I try to plan my meals around those fresh herbs – so that I don’t waste any of them – I can’t always use them up.

I’ve dehydrated dill in the past and I’ve frozen yogurt and tomato paste, but I wanted a way to be able to freeze herbs so I can still get the benefits and flavor of fresh herb.

I’ve figured out how to do that, and it’s SO easy!

Before I show you how to freezer fresh herbs, let’s talk about two big reasons why.

First – the budget.

Unless you have herbs growing in your garden, or unless you have a rogue rosemary plant growing in the front yard (which we had when we lived in California!), fresh herbs aren’t cheap. One 4 oz package of fresh basil costs over $3 at my local grocery store.

Most recipes will call for just a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs, so you’re really only using half of that 4 oz package, MAX.

Unless you are really good about planning other meals that use up the rest of the basil, it’s easy to put the rest of the basil back in the fridge and forget about it until it’s brown and soft and smelly and obviously no longer edible.

What that happens, you’ve pretty much wasted $2. As in literally, thrown a couple bucks into the trash can.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m working within a tight grocery budget, every dollar counts. I can’t afford to throw even just a few of them in the trash can!

Second – it’s a great alternative to using a dehydrator.

I was given this dehydrator as a gift many years ago and I absolutely love it. It’s a little bit on the noisy side, so kept it on top of the dryer (which was in our garage) when we lived in California.

Our trash can was also in the garage so I was in and out of the area throughout the day, making it easy to keep tabs when I was dehydrating cranberries I found during a post-Thanksgiving sale or strawberries or bananas or apples or whatever else happened to be in the dehydrator at the time.

Here in Georgia though, I haven’t found that sweet spot that’s the perfect blend of NOT out of sight out of mind, yet far enough away from our daily activities so the noise doesn’t bother us.

So until I find that perfect spot, I’m freezing fresh herbs instead.

And if you don’t have a dehydrator, you don’t have this dilemma! Freezing is your best bet to not let those fresh herbs – and your hard-earned dollars – go to waste.

Third – freezing herbs means having amazing flavor at your fingertips whenever a recipe calls for it.

You don’t have to make a last-minute run to the store for that one particular item, because you’ll already have it in your freezer!

Plus, you and I both know that 98% of the time, when we go grocery shopping with just one thing on our list, we walk out with a whole lot more!

One last thing to share before I show you how to freezer fresh herbs, is you have to consider how you are going to use the fresh herbs later BEFORE you freeze them.

The technique for freezing herbs that I’m going to show you works really well if you’re going to be baking or cooking with the herbs later. It also works well if you’re going to be using the herb when it’s going to get wet, in perhaps an herbal infused water or tea.

However, if you want to use the fresh herb later as a garnish, then you don’t want to freeze them. Garnishes are always best when fresh, so I usually either don’t do them (unless I’m taking pictures for the blog), or DEFINITELY make sure I have other meals on my meal plan that will use up the herb fresh.

If you want to have a garnish though, buy fresh and freeze what’s leftover using this method!

How to Freeze Fresh Herbs

How to Freeze Fresh Herbs: Supplies

  • Fresh Herbs (cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme… any will work)
  • Ice Cube Tray (I found a super cute silicone ice cube tray at ALDI similar to this one that makes it easier to jam the fresh herb into each cavity AND it’s easier to pop out each cube once it’s frozen.)
  • Water OR Olive Oil**

** Both water and olive oil can be used interchangeably for the purpose of freezer fresh herbs. The only difference would be how you plan to use the fresh herb later on. If you would ordinarily use olive oil with the fresh herb in your cooking, then use the olive oil method. This makes adding herbs to stews, roasts, and soups super easy. If you would not normally use olive oil in your cooking with the fresh herb, then use water. Water will be the more versatile option, as well as the more affordable option. Oil however, can prevent some of the browning and freezer burn that can happen during the freezing process. (Here’s how to choose quality olive oil.) Personally, I like to have a little bit of both available in the freezer.

How to Freeze Fresh Herbs: Method

  1. Remove the edible portion of the herb from the non-edible portions (i.e. the leaves from the stems).
  2. Roughly chop if desired, and then measure roughly 1 tablespoon into each cavity of the ice cube tray, pushing down slightly.
  3. Fill each cavity with water OR olive oil, pushing down on the herb in order to keep it fully submerged.
  4. Freeze the entire tray for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, until the cubes are frozen solid.
  5. Remove the ice cubes to a freezer safe container. Frozen herbs are good for 3-6 months in the freezer.

Do you freeze herbs when you can’t use them up in a recipe? Have you tried olive oil or water? Do you have any tips to share in order to make this a success? Share your experience and ideas in the comments section below!

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How to Store and Freeze Fresh Herbs

Cilantro and Parsley

To keep the full flavor (and pretty color) of soft herbs, like cilantro and parsley, blanch before freezing in oil. Here’s how:

  1. Blanch the herbs. Bring a large pot of water to boil and have a bowl of ice water ready to go nearby.

  2. Dip the bunch of cilantro or parsley into the boiling water quickly just until it wilts, 1-2 seconds (yes, that’s seconds).

  3. Immediately transfer the blanched herbs to the ice water.

  4. Remove from the ice water and pat dry.

  5. Add the whole bunch (tender stems included) to a blender or food processor and purée, adding enough olive oil or melted, unsalted butter to make a smooth, pourable paste.

  6. Fill your ice cube tray with the herby oil (or butter) mixture.

  7. Cover with the ice cube tray cover or plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

  8. Once frozen, remove frozen cubes and store in sealed, airtight containers or Ziploc bags in the freezer. Make sure to label each container so you know what’s what.

Basil

For basil, follow the same method as outlined above for cilantro or parsley. Or, better yet, make this favorite dairy-free pesto and freeze in ice cube trays for later use. Thaw for a quick and easy sauce for weeknight pasta or bowls. Or even turn into a pesto dressing (like this bánh mì one).

Freezing Herbs

Learning to freeze herbs is simpler than you might imagine.

Learning how to freeze fresh herbs is a great way to ensure your summer extras stay fresh until winter. Follow our easy tips for freezing herbs so you can enjoy the bounty from your garden all year round:

1. Wash the herbs and pat them dry, spread them in a single layer on a pan, and put the pan in the freezer.

Note: Chop chives and lemongrass before you freeze them. These herbs are thin and will freeze in minutes.

2. Put the frozen herbs into labeled, sealed containers, and store them in the freezer. Push all the air out of plastic containers before sealing them. In most cases, you don’t need to thaw the herbs before use.

Herbs that Freeze Well

Get more tips for how to preserve your herbs

Pointers for Freezing Herbs

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Cold Enough

Check the temperature of your freezer to ensure it maintains the proper temperature for food storage. Freezers should be 0 degrees F.

Store It

These vessels are the best for freezer-bound foods:

  • Plastic freezer bags: Use bags designated for freezing, such as resealable bags and vacuum freezer bags. These are made of thicker material than regular plastic bags and are more resistant to moisture and oxygen. In lieu of a vacuum sealer, you can use a straw to suck air out of bags.
  • Freezer-safe containers: Look for a phrase or icon on the label or container bottom indicating they are designed for freezer use.
  • Glass jars with tight-fitting lids: All major brands of canning jars are acceptable for use in the refrigerator and freezer.

Label It

Take a moment to label foods before storing them. Use a wax crayon or waterproof marking pen to note the name of the herb, the quantity, and the date it was frozen.

Short on basil? Check out these easy herb substitutes!

Alternate Herb Freezing Methods

Image zoom Freezing herbs with oil in ice cube trays is an easy way to add flavor to your recipes.

Another tasty way to freeze herbs is to mix them with oil and freeze in ice cube trays. Make a paste by mixing 1/3 cup oil with 2 cups fresh herbs in a blender until smooth. The paste freezes beautifully in sealed jars or in ice cube trays that are thoroughly wrapped to make them airtight. You can also remove the cubes and store them in a plastic freezer bag. The paste will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. In winter, retrieve a frozen paste cube to give a fresh taste to your dishes. Herbs that are good candidates for grinding into paste include basil, chervil, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and tarragon.

Homemade Pesto Recipe

Herbs can be frozen to make decorative ice cubes for party drinks. Freeze strawberries and their leaves, mint sprigs, and woodruff sprigs into an ice ring or block. Boil the water first to make it clear. Once it has cooled, fill the bottom of the mold with the boiled water and freeze. Arrange the herbs you plan to freeze, then continue adding water until the mold is filled.

Berry Ice Cubes Recipe

How to Dry Herbs

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Freezing isn’t your only option for preserving your herbs long-term—you can also dry them. There are a few different methods for drying herbs, including air-drying and microwave-oven drying. To air-dry your herbs, gather three to six stems together and secure with string, yarn, or a rubber band. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry, dark place (sunlight robs color, fragrance, and flavor). A well-ventilated attic or basement are both good options. Your herbs will be fully dry within a few weeks (maybe even quicker!). Before cooking with your herbs, make sure the plants are brittle, then remove the leaves and store them in airtight jars or bags.

Get more information about how to dry herbs

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