If you love cooking, it is a huge pleasure to turn to your herb garden for ingredients whenever possible. Growing organic herbs can be a lot of fun, and many of them are flexible — you can even grow some on windowsills.
Plenty of organic herbs, including tansy, arugula, anise, cilantro, dill, fennel, rosemary, parsley and lavender, do well in cooler weather. However, if you grow warmth-loving herbs, such as basil, tarragon, perilla or sesame, you may need to bring them inside when the temperature dips. Fortunately, if you have herbs that begin to die or grow smaller at a certain time of year, you can harvest them for later use. Here’s an overview of how to preserve fresh herbs.
The Various Methods of Preserving Herbs
Quite a few ways exist to preserve organic herbs. There’s no need to buy expensive herbs at the store. Drying may be the one that jumps to your mind first, but freezing is another technique. You can also turn your herbs into butter, pesto or vinegar concoctions.
Regardless of the preservation method you go with, it is best to harvest flowering herbs after the buds appear, but before they fully open, as you get the most flavor this way. Try to pick the herbs once the morning dew evaporates and before the temperature soars. Do not pick herbs that show evidence of damage.
1. Drying Herbs
Want to use herbs such as sage, thyme and oregano for making tea and cooking? Drying can help make it happen. When you dry and store herbs properly, you can enjoy them as much as a year later. One key is to ensure they truly are dry before storing them; otherwise, mold can appear. Herbs should also be kept in a space that is cool and dry.
Here are some ways you can dry herbs:
- Dry herbs in the microwave.
Check them every 30 seconds for up to four minutes. Place the herbs between paper towels, and switch the towels out when they get too wet. The herbs should become crisp and breakable.
- Air drying.
Choose a room with good ventilation, and hang herbs in bunches and away from light. Once they are dry, use scissors, a knife or hand pruners to separate the herbs from their stems. The final step in drying, whether you are microwaving or air drying, is to place the herbs in a durable, airtight jar. If you have a dehydrator, it is a good idea to use it for drying basil and parsley, as these herbs are extra-moist.
2. Freezing Herbs
Freezing herbs is as easy as drying them. Read this detailed guide on freezing produce to avoid freezer burn.
- Wash the herbs, separate the stems and leaves, and allow the leaves to dry on a flat surface (a tray, for example).
- Then, gather the herbs in a bag and freeze them so they’re ready when you need to inject flavor into soups or sauces.Note: If you want to be able to grab individual leaves, freeze the leaves first on a flat surface, and then put them into a plastic bag and back into the freezer.
If you’re going to use your harvested fresh herbs in the very near future, don’t bother freezing them. Rinse them and store them in a plastic bag in your fridge. They will last for up to a week.
Want to use herbs in a little more than a week?
- Place the entire plant or sprig in a cup or jar along with 1 inch of water.
- Use a plastic bag for cover, and place the herbs in the refrigerator.
- Change the water every day, and your herbs may be good to go for as long as two weeks.
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