My little patio garden is bursting. Each year, I tinker with this square space off my kitchen. I’ve learned that it’s too sunny for impatiens and that begonias thrive in the morning sun. Potted herbs always take off, and so each summer I find myself swirling ribbons of basil into gazpacho, stirring mint into lemonade, and topping my green salads with chives.
Yet as much as I cook, I can’t possibly use all the herbs tumbling over the terra cotta pots! The basil is blended into pesto, frozen in ice cube trays, and then transferred to freezer bags, to be popped out later in the year. Last summer, I finally started drying sage, mint, thyme, and rosemary. Why did I not think to do this before?
After snipping the herbs, I bring them inside and give them a good rinse. I remove and discard all the yellowed or bruised leaves and thoroughly dry the rest. I lay them out on a big plate, and the drying process begins. In the days that follow, I flip them, shift them, and watch their slow transformation. As I go about my day, I may sense a hint of mint in the air; sometimes I’ll notice the sage leaves begin to curl. I honor the humble beauty of a patio garden by preparing herbs for colder seasons. I waste less of summer’s goodness. And perhaps most unexpectedly, the weeks of herb drying become a meditative experience for me—one that requires focus, attentiveness, and care.
Each herb dries in its own time. As they are ready, I gently nestle them into the glass jars I’ve set aside and labeled. Months later, I will reach for them to season a pot of lentils or bundle them into a bouquet garni. These moments will bring me back to the summer fullness of my lively little patio and to the slow beauty of watching herbs dry.