With a minimal amount of effort you can successfully preserve herbs for use year-round. There are many different ways to preserve herbs, the most common method is to dry them. However, many herbs can be frozen with the end product closer to fresh than dried. Another method of preserving herbs is to make them into a paste with oil. Below you will find directions for the best methods to preserve your fresh garden herbs.
Fresh Cut Herbs For Fresh Use Later
Cut long stems from your herb plant as you would a bouquet of flowers. Remove leaves from the bottom third of the stem. Place your herb bouquet in a glass of water, taking care not to let any leaves fall below the surface of the water. Place a plastic bag loosely over the top and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Drying Herb Leaves and Flowers
The preferred way of drying herbs is with an electric dehydrator. To do so, place the leaves or flowers in single layer on the drying tray and follow your dehydrator’s instructions. Dry only one type of herb at a time so the flavor is not compromised.
You can successfully air dry herbs by following these guidelines:
*Pick the leaves and/or flowers off their stems and lay them in a single layer on a screen or breathable fabric. You may wish to cover them with a single layer of cheesecloth to keep the dust and debris off.
*For drying small leaved herbs such as thyme, or for drying flowers, you may hang the stems in small bundles up-side down. If your drying space is dusty, place the bundles inside a paper bag with some air holes punched in them. Once dry, remove the leaves whole from the stems.
*Choose a location for drying that is warm, dry and dark with good ventilation such as a garden shed or attic.
*Optimum drying temperature is between 80 and 90 degrees. At this rate your herbs will be dry in a few days. Air drying herbs in cooler temperatures may take up to a week or two to dry completely.
*Monitor the herbs daily. Once they are thoroughly dried store them in air tight containers to preserve their flavor.
Freezing herbs is the best way to preserve flavor, color and nutrients. Unfortunately, frozen herbs become limp and sometimes discolored after thawing so they will not be suitable to use with raw foods. However, frozen herbs are excellent in cooked dishes.
One way is to simply chop herb leaves and seal in bags or containers. This method works well for thin leaved herbs such as parsley, chives and cilantro.
Another method is to chop fresh herbs quite fine, fill ice cube trays with the chopped herbs then add just enough water to each cell to cover, then freeze. Once frozen, the cubes can be stored in a ziplock bag.