Herbs are some of the most useful plants you can grow. They can be kept compact in containers, even in a sunny window in your kitchen. Anyone who’s used them knows that homegrown herbs taste better and are much cheaper than store-bought herbs, and they usually only need to be used in small amounts.
Sometimes your herbs can get away from you though, and if you’re growing them outside, they can get beaten back by fall frost. In these cases, the best thing to do is to cut and preserve them. What are some of the best ways to do that? Keep reading to learn more about preserving herbs from the garden.
Preserving Herbs from the Garden
There are a few herb preservation methods, but two of the easiest and most successful are freezing and drying. These methods usually preserve the herbs’ color and flavor well.
When freezing fresh herbs, you can either blanch them first or not. Blanching can dampen the flavor a little, but it helps preserve the color better. To blanch, simply place your herbs in a colander and dump boiling water over them for a second– it doesn’t take much.
Basil really benefits from blanching and will turn black if frozen without it. Herbs can be frozen whole or cut into smaller pieces. Whatever you decide to do, lay your herbs out on a cookie sheet and freeze the whole thing overnight. The next morning combine it all in a plastic bag and store it in the freezer– this keeps the herbs from freezing together as a solid, hard-to-use mass.
Freezing fresh herbs can also be done using an ice cube tray. Cut up your herbs and press them into an ice cube tray, about a tablespoon (15 ml.) per cube. Freeze it overnight. The next morning, fill the tray the rest of the way up with water. This will give you easy-to-use portions of frozen herbs.
Another method for storing garden herbs is drying. Drying herbs can be done in the oven, the microwave, or by air.
Lay your herbs on a cookie sheet and bake them on the lowest possible setting in the oven until they’re dry and brittle. Note that they will lose some flavor this way.
You can also microwave them between paper towels for a few minutes for the same effect.
A very popular and decorative way of drying herbs is to hang them upside down and allow them to air dry. Store them in a warm but, preferably, dark place to prevent the loss of flavor. Tie them in small bundles to allow for good air circulation.
Now you’re ready to continue using and enjoying fresh herbs year-round.