How to Preserve Herbs for Later Use

Harvesting herbs is the next step in your herb garden journey. Having a herb garden at home is pretty much like having your own health food grocery store. Herbs are extremely useful, and each has their own uses. But to harvest them isn’t as simple as plucking the leaves out whenever you feel like it. You can do it of course, but only if you intend to use your plants just once. There are three ways people use employ when preserving herbs for later use; drying, freezing and preserving them in salt or vinegar (much like pickling).

The herbals mostly have their fragrance scent and flavor from the oils that evaporate in the air, even when the herbs leaves are crushed to pieces. Some ideal way, is that you should use fresh herbs for cooking, but èpossible conservatore something of quality to use later.

There are several methods to preserve herbs, they are: Freezing FYI, freezing is one of the best option of preservation for leaf based herbs like fresh mint, rosemary, cilantro, tarragon, parsley, and basil.  And considered as one of the easiest methods to preserve herbs.

  1. First method: Rinse the herbs quickly in cold water, shake off the excess, then chop coarsely. You could pack them into a small container like an ice cube tray, and have it with topping off with some broth or water.
  2. Second method: mix the herbs into some paste and add a little oil or some water before having it freeze. Store frozen herbs in an closed container and put in the refrigerator for as long as 3 months of preservation.
  3. Third method: Another method for freezing is to spread the herbs, not to close each other onto a cookie sheet to freeze it, then move the herbs into a large container or plastic bag and seal it. When they thawed, herbs will not be suitable for garnish, but can be used in cooking. Do not re-freeze herbs after thawing.

Drying If you ask me, whats my favorite way on flavor retention, drying herbs is the way to go and considered as the most traditional method of herb preservation.

  1. Clean the herbs and do not use water. Keep it dry.
  2. Rinse dust and dirt from the herbs, shake off any excess water. After that, spread the herbs out to a dry surface on paper towels or something alike, until the herbs moisture has evaporated.
  3. Remove any damaged foliage. After that, tie the stems into small, loose bundles. Don’t forget to allow some good air circulation around each herbs bunch with twine or string. Hang the grouped herbs upside down in a dry, airy and warm place out of the sunlight.
Ultra violet rays from the sun and moisture from herbs can discolor and severely reduce the quality of many herbs. Therefore, it is best to dry the herbs indoors in a large empty cupboard, attic or unused corner of a room. The dried herbs seem pretty attractive to dry in a kitchen or pantry.

If none of these places is practical, the herbs can be dried in a place like a barn, shed or maybe under the cover of a porch. Sage, thyme, summer savory, dill and parsley are easy to dry. Basil, tarragon and mints can be molded and discolored if they do not dry quickly.

Alternative Method

An alternative to hanging herbs to dry in clusters is to spread herbs on window screens or windowsill herb garden. Suspend the screens on the trestles or the back of the chairs. Turn the leaves often to ensure uniform drying. Also, try to ventilate the dried herbs with seeds, bind the herbs in small bundles and place them inside a paper bag with perforated holes on the sides. Suspend the bag in a dark area with good air circulation. Collect the seeds when they are dry and store them in containers that are rigid and resistant to light.

Microwave drying is a quick and simple method for drying small amounts of herbs. Put a single layer of clean, dry herbal leaves between dry paper and have them in the microwave oven for 1 to 3 minutes at quite high power. The drying will vary depends on the moisture of the herbs and the power set on the microwave oven. Leave the leaves to cool. If they are not brittle, heat for 31 seconds and try again. Repeat if necessary.

Thick leaf herbs may need to dry in air for several days before heating them in the microwave. Conventional ovens, not just micros can also be used to dry herbs. Spread the herbs on the baking sheets and dry them at the lowest possible temperature. Homemade food dehydrators also do a quite excellent job of drying herbals brew. Follow the instructions provided with the dehydrator. When the leaves are dry, separate them from their stems and pack the leaves in rigid containers with tight lids.

To preserve the full flavor of the herbs, avoid crushing the herbs leaves until you are ready to use them. Store the preserved herbs in a cool and dry place that’s away from sunlight. How long do frozen herbs last, if stored properly?

What is mentioned above is generally true for all, but to be sure, know what kind of herb you wish to harvest and prepare and learn all you can about it. Caring for a home herb garden is both beneficial & rewarding and reaping what you sow is good, but learn how to reap them properly lest you lose them.