End of Season Tips for Storing Fresh Herbs

Easy ways to save and savor summer herbs for laterThis beautiful basil plant has served us well over the summer  growing season, and we enjoyed several homemade and fresh “farewell” Margherita pizzas over the weekend.  Now with the arrival of cooler days, it’s “thyme” to harvest what’s left and store for winter usage. Here area few quick tips to be as resourceful as we can  and still savor what is left of those fresh, homegrown herbs.

1. Drying Herbs.  This works best for low moisture herbs like dill, marjoram, rosemary and thyme.

  • Pick the stems, shake and rinse off any dirt and/or that rogue insect.
  • Remove the lower leaves and bundle 4-6 branches together, tying  with string or a rubber band.
  • Place upside down in a brown paper bag, with stems out and tied closed.
  • Punch small holes along the top for air circulation.
  • Hang the bag in a warm, dark, area for about 2 to 4 weeks, checking every so often until dry.

Herbs with higher moisture content like basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm, and mint will mold if not dried quickly. For the best outcome, gather the herbs in smaller bundles and put in a well-ventilated area.

Oven drying is another option, is quicker and worked for my basil and will be doing the same for the oregano. Place the herbs on a cookie sheet and put in cool oven (140 – 200 degrees  or the warm mode)  3-4 hours.

Regardless of the method and to retain freshness:

  • Store the dried herbs in air tight containers like a small glass jars or ziploc bags and in a cool, dry place.
  • Herbs will retain more flavor if the leaves are left whole and crushed later at time of use.
  • Label and date container. Dried herbs are best used within a year.
  • Throw away at the first sign of mold.
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried leaves = 1 tablespoon of fresh

2. Freezing. I really like this method and again best for high moisture herbs like basil.

  • Chop up the herbs and put into an ice cube tray.
  • Fill the cube with either water which will not diminish the flavor when used later, or another option is to use olive oil.
  • Once frozen, pop out and store the cubes in a bag or container to use later to season up soups, casseroles and other dishes.

In addition to my basil, I have also done this with a store bought bunch of organic cilantro as I can never use it up all at once and have a favorite black bean and corn salsa recipe where this, along with olive oil, is a critical ingredient.

3. Grow indoors.  If you have the space and right amount of light throughout the day, this can be a good option.   Some of the easier herbs to grow indoors are parsley, lemongrass, baytree and mint.  Chives is also a good choice so I’m just moving my pot inside.  Check this article out from Chow for more information on what herbs do well indoors.

Hopefully one of these ways will help you keep a little bit of summertime around all year long. Now what to do this winter for my front yard garden!  Bon Appetite!

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