Protect fresh leaves from the garden by drying, refrigerating, or making creative gifts

For the novice (and experienced gardener), fresh herbs are a great addition to your garden. Most are well adapted to the Mediterranean climate in Southern California and can be very effective by the end of the summer. So, what can you do with a four-foot-tall basil? How can you save those soft, fragrant cilantro leaves before the plant shuts down and loses its flavor?

Drought is a good alternative to many plants such as basil, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, oregano and sage. Rosemary may dry out, but old Christmas tree needles will be rough. Plants are best when the plants are healthy and when they are harvested before closing. When a plant begins to bloom, the sugar and fragrant compounds in the leaves migrate to the flowers to give energy to the plant.

After cutting, you need to carefully inspect each leaf for “thugs” before washing it thoroughly in clean water. Drain the remaining water and place in a dryer or oven to dry. The plants should be dried until ripe, then bagged and frozen. I recommend frosting to preserve the flavor and kill any unknown insect eggs.

Pesto can be made from basil, sage, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, dill and parsley. To avoid bitterness in the final product, some stronger, more mature herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme) should be mixed with parsley in a 1 to 5 ratio. Pistachios, almonds or walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts in any juniper recipe. Cilatero pesto is especially delicious when finely chopped jalapeno is added to the mixer. As the pest enters the refrigerator, the recipes can be changed to suit your taste. Pesto may be frozen in ice cube trays for future use. Once cool, push the cubes out of the airtight bag to prevent them from burning in the refrigerator.

Fresh herbs can be cut, mixed with butter, oil or water and refrigerated in ice cubes.

Mark any plant creations before placing them in the refrigerator. I have learned from experience that it is very difficult to distinguish one type of plant from another after it has cooled.

Vegetable vineyards are especially popular gift baskets. Freshly washed and dried basil, rosemary, tarragon, sage or thyme added to white or red wine vinegar make a wonderful gift. Be more careful when inspecting herbal branches – you don’t want to see a small worm under your sweet vinegar bottle, especially if you give someone a gift! Flavored wines with herbs, fruits or garlic can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Fragrant oils can work in the same way, but should be refrigerated and used within 4 days. The low acid content of the oil and the lack of oxygen are ideal for growing bacteria that cause botulism, lethal food poisoning.

For more information on spices and oils, visit

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Need more gardening tips? Here is how to contact the main garden in your area.

Los Angeles County; 626-586-1988;

Orange County; 949-809-9760;

Riverside County; 951-683-6491 Extension. 231;

San Bernardino County; 909-387-2182;

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