Preserving Herbs: Best Keeping Strategies

The task of preserving garden herbs can seem daunting, yet it’s simpler than you might think. Let’s explore a variety of effective herb preservation techniques that are both easy to follow and highly efficient.

Herb Preservation Tips & Techniques

The Art of Herb Drying

Before beginning the drying process, prepare your herbs meticulously. Remove dirt and damaged leaves, then wash and dry them gently. Proper preparation ensures your dried herbs are clean and free of impurities.

Air drying herbs

Air Drying: A Time-Tested Method

Air drying is a simple yet effective method for preserving herbs. To air-dry your herbs, follow these simple steps:

  1. Bundle your herb stems, securing their stems with twine or string.
  2. Hang the bundles upside down in a well-ventilated area.
  3. Allow herbs to air dry until they crumble when touched.

Once dried, remove leaves from stems and store in airtight containers.

Alternate Drying Techniques

If space or time constraints prohibit air drying, consider these alternative drying methods:

  • Food Dehydrator: Use a food dehydrator for controlled drying. Spread your herb leaves on trays according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Oven Drying: For a quicker option, set your oven to its lowest temperature. Place herb leaves on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving the door slightly ajar. Monitor regularly until dried.

Both methods work well for various herbs like basil, mint, parsley, and cilantro. By drying your herbs, you preserve their flavors and aromas for future culinary applications.

Herb Preservation & Storage Methods

Storing and preserving herbs is essential to maintain their freshness and flavor. By following the proper methods, you can ensure that your harvested herbs stay in optimal condition.

Safeguard Dried Herbs with Airtight Containers

After drying your herbs using one of the techniques listed above, remove herb leaves from the stems and store them in airtight containers away from light and moisture. This helps retain the flavor and potency of the herbs for an extended period.

Store dried herbs in airtight containers

To store dried herbs effectively:

  • Opt for glass jars with secure lids.
  • Label containers with herb names and harvest dates.
  • Keep them in cool, dark spaces like a pantry.

Preserve Herb with Freezing to Capture Freshness

Freezing fresh herbs is an excellent way to maintain their vibrant flavors. Wash and dry the herbs, then choose from two methods:

Frozen Herb Cubes

Freezing herbs in ice cube trays is an excellent way to preserve your garden herbs’ flavor and aroma. To learn the proper method for doing so, check out my article on how to freeze herbs in ice cube trays, and discover if it’s better to freeze your herbs in oil or water.

Freezing herbs in olive oil with ice cube trays

Freeze on Trays, Then Transfer to Airtight Containers

  1. Optional: Blanch herbs in boiling water for 10-20 seconds then pat dry. Blanching preserves color and flavor
  2. Lay herbs out on trays in a single layer.
  3. Freeze on trays for about an hour.
  4. Transfer to airtight bags, label and store in freezer.

Both of these methods allow you to conveniently grab individual portions of frozen herbs whenever needed while maintaining their original flavors.

To learn which herbs to freeze, read my article on the 6 best herbs to freeze and ways to freeze them.

Infused Oils and Vinegar: Flavorful Preservation

Elevate your dishes by making herb-infused oils or vinegar. To craft infused oils or vinegars:

  1. Choose fresh, clean herbs.
  2. Wash and dry herbs thoroughly.
  3. Place herbs in a sterilized glass jar, filling it halfway.
  4. Warm oil or vinegar and pour over herbs.
  5. Seal the jar and let them sit, allow infusing for weeks.
  6. Strain herbs before transferring to smaller bottles.

These concoctions amplify your culinary endeavors while providing long-term herb storage.

Essential Tools for Preserving Herbs

Having the right tools is crucial for successful herb preservation. Proper equipment streamlines the process whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner. Here’s a list of essentials, each serving a specific purpose:

1. Drying Racks or Screens: Ideal for air drying herbs to maintain flavor through gradual evaporation, racks, and screens can provide an ideal surface for drying.

2. Twine or String: As an alternative to racks, use twine or string to tie herb bundles and hang them in a well-ventilated area for drying.

3. Airtight Containers or Jars: Store fully dried herbs in airtight glass jars or containers for protection against moisture.

4. Sealable Bags or Vacuum Sealer: Keep herbs fresh by using sealable bags or a vacuum sealer and freezing to prevent moisture and air exposure.

5. Labels: Keep track of freshness by labeling jars with herb names and harvest dates.

6. Ice Cube Trays: Convenient for freezing herbs in water or oil for easy portioning.

7. Infusing Liquids (Oil or Vinegar): Enhance dishes by infusing oils or vinegar with your harvested herbs.

Each tool has its role, ensuring your herb harvesting and preservation ventures are efficient and rewarding.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do dried herbs last?

When stored properly in airtight containers away from light and moisture, dried herbs can be stored for up to one year. However, using them within six months for optimal flavor is best.

What is the best way to preserve fresh herbs?

The best way to preserve fresh herbs is to dry them thoroughly and then store them in airtight containers away from light and moisture. Freezing fresh herbs is another effective method for preserving the freshness of your herbs.

Can I freeze fresh herbs?

Freezing fresh herbs is a great way to preserve their flavors. Chop the herbs and place them in ice cube trays with a little water or oil. Once frozen, transfer the herb cubes to freezer bags for easy use in your recipes.