Over the years, every summer and early fall I always harvest both herbs I grow, and local ones I can sustainably harvest (for example Nettles), and I dry them to preserve for use all year, to build a herb pantry. For example, I always stock up on Thyme, Rosemary, Sage and so on. Nothing from a store competes with home-grown dried herbs in the middle of January! They are light in texture, fresh and you know exactly what was used to raise them (in most cases nothing more than water and sunshine). To dry? Cut in the morning, and stash the cut herbs in new paper lunch bags, in a cool/dry area. The herbs will air dry, preserving the oils. Once dry, pull of the stems, and place in glass mason jars, marked. You can use a food dehydrator as well, however, use the coolest setting. You want to avoid cooking the delicate oils.
However, as I started studying herbalism, I found I needed more herbs so I could make medicinal teas and tinctures. This led to more plants being grown, especially for lesser common things like marshmallow and feverfew. This summer I started building a herb pantry for medicinal use (that is separate from our eating herbs, though I do use them as well in my medicinal work), that I keep in an easy to access, yet cool/dark/dry area, so I can work easily.
However, if you don’t or can’t grow them yourself, it is easy to source. My suggestions are to buy from Frontier Co-op (their products are used in many herb bulk bins in stores, always well-marked) or Mt. Rose Herbs, both of which are highly regarded. Only buy from sources that are trusted however. Avoid herbs and spices from discount stores, and in bulk bins where no brand is marked. You have no idea what was used on them, or if it is even the actual product. (Frontier sells in large quantities, Mt. Rose sells in smaller amounts)
Culinary herbs such as:
- Bay Leaf
- Dill seed, Dill Weed
Medicinal herbs & flowers:
- Dandelion Root
- Hibiscus Flowers
- Lemon Balm
- Marshmallow Root
- Red Raspberry Leaves
- Rose Flowers
- Strawberry Leaves
There of course is so much more out there, including spices, and even more flowers and roots. Buy what you need, no more than an ounce or so at a time, unless you have a project in mind, and try to use up within a few months if you can, but make it a policy that once a year you clean out any unused herbs and spices, and send them to the compost pile.
For best results, don’t crush any larger leaves until time to use (such as red raspberry, or sage). Crumble, or finely pound, as needed. This keeps the essential oils fresher, for longer.
For best storage, invest in various glass mason jars, and seal tightly. Store out of direct light.