Do you grow fresh herbs indoors? Starting an indoor herb garden is easier than you’d think. Growing your own herbs means you’ll always have a well-stocked arsenal of flavors to add to your cooking, even during cold seasons when fresh herbs wouldn’t normally be available. Also, the green leaves and earthy aromas will brighten up your home year-round.
Once you have a lush garden of herbs, though, it can be difficult to know what to do with them all. Nobody wants to waste a beautiful edible plant, but you also can’t make pesto and marinara sauce every day of the year! Another challenge is that herbs will only stay fresh for so long.
Preserving herbs when they’re fresh and abundant is a fantastic way to benefit from your plants all year long. In addition, it reduces the chance of wasting these precious plants. Keep reading to learn the three easiest ways to preserve your fresh herbs.
How to Preserve Herbs
Harvesting and preserving herbs is one of the simplest skills to learn. Just follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying delicious flavors and beautiful plants all year.
Preparation for Preserving Herbs
Did you know that most herbs have the best flavor when their buds first appear and before their flowers open fully? Therefore, take advantage of that by picking your herbs – leaving the leaves on their stems – just after their buds appear.
Next, throw away bruised, discolored, and blemished leaves and stems. Remember, to make delightfully preserved herbs, you’ll need to begin with the best-quality herbs your garden has to offer.
Then, lightly rinse your herbs in cool, running water. Be sure to gently shake off any excess moisture, and drain them on paper towels.
Once you finish preparing your herbs, it will be time to preserve them by either freezing or drying them.
Preservation Technique #1: Freezing Herbs
Frozen herbs won’t look the prettiest after they thaw, but they’ll still add a punch of flavor to any dish.
- Dice your herbs.
- Pack the herbs into an ice cube tray, using a toothpick to press them down and fill the spaces.
- Fill each ice cube slot with water.
Once they’re frozen, you can simply pop out a cube of herbs and add them to your favorite soup, stew, sauce, or even smoothie! However, if you’re packing different kinds of herbs into a single ice cube tray, don’t forget to label the ice cube slots with the names of each herb.
Preservation Technique #2: Drying Herbs
If you want your herbs to stay pretty so you can use them as garnishes, you’ll need to dry them. There are a number of ways you can dry herbs, depending on what appliances and weather conditions are available to you.
- Food dehydrator. Place herbs in the dehydrator between 95°F and 110°F, arranging stems on a drying tray without allowing them to touch.
- Oven. Spread a layer of herbs on a cookie sheet, then put them in the oven on the lowest temperature for three to four hours. Keep the oven door propped open while the herbs dry, and stir them periodically until they’re completely dried.
- Air drying. Tie a clump of herbs together by the stems using a rubber band. Hang them upside-down in a dry room with good ventilation, avoiding humid rooms like kitchens or bathrooms. Cover the herbs with a hole-punched paper bag to keep dust from collecting and to allow air circulation. Be sure to heat the herbs at 160°F for at least thirty minutes before using them to destroy any insects or eggs in the clump.
You can tell that your herbs are completely dried when the crispy leaves crumble easily between your fingers. This will help you prevent mold. However, dried herbs will maintain the richest flavor when you keep the leaves and stems whole. So, don’t crumble them before you’re ready to cook!
Storing and Using Preserved Herbs
Dried herbs should always be stored in a cool, dark area and in a glass, airtight container or jar. They will keep their flavor and color for up to three months on the shelf, or up to a year in the refrigerator or freezer. To substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs in your recipes, use a generous teaspoon of crumbled dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh.
If you’re struggling to use and preserve all of your fresh herbs, try these quick and easy herbal recipes!
Easy Herbal Recipes
5-Minute Magic Green Sauce
This versatile sauce can be used as a dip, marinade, dressing, spread, or just about anything else! Additionally, it pairs with almost anything, giving your meals a decidedly herbal and “green” flavor.
- 1 avocado
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup packed combined parsley and cilantro leaves
- 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed
- juice of one lime
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup pistachios
- Pulse all ingredients – except pistachios – in a food processor until incorporated.
- Add pistachios and pulse until mostly smooth.
- Serve as a dip, spread, or sauce — or add additional water or oil to thin the sauce into a dressing or a marinade.
Liven up your water and make it easy to stay hydrated with some aromatic, healthy herbs.
- Place herbs in a pitcher or bottle.
- Mash the leaves gently to release the extract and oils.
- Add water.
- Let the drink sit overnight. The longer it sits, the more flavorful the drink will be!
“Thyme for Me” Facial Mask
- ¼ cup oatmeal
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- Aloe vera gel
- Mix the oatmeal with the dried lavender leaves, rosemary leaves, and thyme leaves in a food processor.
- Add a small amount of fresh aloe vera gel.
- Seal the paste in an airtight container.
- To use, mix the mask powder with water to create a spreadable consistency.
- Apply to face, avoiding eye area.
- Leave on for 15 minutes.
In conclusion, there are countless ways to use your gorgeous herbs and capture their richest flavors. Get creative, and don’t let them go to waste!
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