My husband always says we don’t actually have “soil” in East Texas; we have dirt. This dirt has a lot of clay and sand, which isn’t great for growing plants. However, I’ve found it sufficient for growing several herbs.
The perennials I’ve had success with here are sage, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, mint, and rosemary. Parsley and basil also do well here. Cilantro will grow great in the cooler weather but bolts very quickly as soon as it gets hot. And it gets hot very early in Texas. That’s why basil does well here.
Any of the above mentioned herbs are great to use fresh of course, but the following five herbs I also cut, dry, and use out of the cupboard: thyme, sage, oregano, basil, and rosemary.
I’ve tried to dry and use parsley. My parsley ended up looking brown and tasting flavorless, so it did not go well. I do not profess in any way to be a professional at any of this. So, obviously, there is a way to properly dry and put up parsley, but I didn’t find out what it was. After my failed attempt, I ended up pulling all the parsley from my yard and just concentrating on the other herbs. Parsley, as it turns out, can be quite invasive if you don’t have it confined, and mine was not.
My rosemary plant seems very hardy and is enormous now. It started as such a small plant, and we put it in an area where we couldn’t get anything else to grow. Now, my rosemary bush takes up the entire area. I think it is the easiest to put up. After it dries, you simply run your fingers down the wooden stems and put all the spiny leaves in a container. The other four herbs I put up, I try to crush a bit before putting into a bottle.
How do I dry my herbs? One day, I was looking on Pinterest for ideas of what to do with an extra chair back (long story) and found that if you hang one from the ceiling, it makes a great place to dry herbs. I put mine in the garage, and it has worked great for that very task ever since.
If I run low on a certain herb, I go ahead and put some up to dry. When the herb seems most prolific during the year, I will also do this. With my basil, I do it before it starts to get cold. As soon as you have frost, the basil will die. This year, I grew Thai basil and sweet basil. Both are great for all kinds of dishes.
I think thyme, go figure, takes the most time to put up, because its leaves are so tiny. It takes a long time to get a little bit. I grew my thyme from a seed and, very sadly, it was killed by fire ants this spring. I’d had it for a few years, so I was so surprised to see that a fire ant mound under it had killed the whole plant. Very irritating. All of us who have fire ants hate them. If you don’t have them in your area, you are lucky.
I recently dried a batch of oregano. I cut it from my garden and used string to tie it to my herb rack. Since it’s June, I only had to leave the oregano hanging from my herb rack for a couple of days before it was ready to put up. I then cut it down and used my hands to get the dried leaves off the stems. Once that’s done, I used a mortar and pestle to crush it up. Then I transferred the oregano into a spice bottle for use. It’s a pretty easy process… if you can keep the herbs alive and safe from fire ants.