Monday, September 24, 2012

Preserving Your Herbs

In many cases herbs are the first thing that new gardeners grow, herbs can be grown indoors in containers, on small balconies, and other small places since they tend to be smaller in size. So now that you have your herbs, how should you preserve them so that you can enjoy them throughout the coming months?

Before you preserve and store your herbs you will have to harvest them. When harvested before blooming your herbs will have the best flavor. This is because their essential oils are the highest at this time. 

If your herbs have a very strong flavor such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, lavender, mint, sage, or bay then you will want to dry them.

To dry your herbs you can either air or room dry them for small amounts, but if you have a large a mount of herbs to dry you may want to invest in a food dehydrator to help the task go by a little more quickly.

For room/air drying you will want to fasten your herbs together in small bunches of stems with either a rubber band or twine, tie these bundles tightly since the stems will inevitably shrink as they dry. Then you will need to hang your herbs upside down in a warm, dry place. As the leaves become brittle, strip from stems and store in glass jars that are labeled and dated appropriately.

For your herbs that are more tender or have more subtle flavors, you will want to freeze them. You can freeze your herbs either as cubes or as a paste.

To freeze as a paste you will want to gently puree the herbs with a small amount of olive oil. (According to Mother Earth News the ration should be 1/4 c. oil to 1 c. herb leaves). Then you can freeze your paste in a plastic freezer bag.

To freeze as cubes just chop the herb leaves coarsely and pack them into ice cube trays loosely, add water to the tray and freeze. Once your cubes are frozen you may remove them and store in a plastic freezer bag for up to three months, so be sure to label and date your freezer bags. These cubes can be added to sauces or soups to amp up your flavor in your food dishes.

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