Don’t let your herb go to waste! Learn how to preserve herbs.
You can make your herbs last year-round despite the inclement weather. Or save your herb plants if it’s producing too quickly for you to keep up with the fresh harvest. How? By preserving them!
Adding fresh herbs makes your recipes extra special. It adds flavor and color to all types of meals. Consuming herbs may also give health benefits. It helps to prevent and manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes according to research.
Any type of herb can be saved—from woody ones like rosemary and thyme, to leafy varieties like basil and parsley.
Here are the tricks to preserve your home grown herbs so you never need to buy herbs from the store again.
What You'll Need
Some of these tools and materials are needed depending on how you want to preserve your herbs.
Equipment / Tools
- Pruners or garden scissors
- Airtight containers
- Ice cube trays
- Glass bottle
- String or rubber bands
- Food Processor or blender
- Paper bag
- Container labels
- Paper towels
Things to remember before you start:
Before you start preserving herbs, there are few things to keep in mind. First is the cleanliness.
"Improperly preserving herbs could be a potential source of botulism" says Sharon McDonald, food safety specialist at Pennsylvania State University.
Also, food-borne illnesses could lead to serious long-term repercussions like arthritis.
Some people believe that a herb shouldn’t be washed to avoid moisture, but washing is actually vital for preservation. Bacteria and dirt will promote rapid decay thus it needs to be removed by washing.
To make sure you kill all the bacteria, dip your herbs in a sanitizing vinegar solution. Mix 1 parts white distilled to 3 parts water. Soak the herbs for 5-10 minutes. Remove the herbs, rinse them well, and make sure they are perfectly dry.
1. Dry them
Works for: Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Marjoram, Chives, Mint
The simplest way to preserve herbs is to dry them out or also known as dehydrating herbs. There are 2 ways of drying herbs.
Air-drying - Work best to low-moisture herbs
- Gather a smaller bundle (5-10) branches together and tie it with string or a rubber band. Make sure to leave about 2 inches as it will help the herb to dry easier and faster.
- To prevent any dust or other contaminants from gathering between the leaves, hang them upside down in a paper bag punched with a few holes for ventilation.
- Place the bag in a warm, dry area and well-ventilated room. Your herbs may be dried and ready to store in about 2 weeks.
Oven-Dry - If you want to speed up the process, you can dry herbs in the oven.
- Place the leaves on a baking sheet one inch deep or less.
- Put herbs in an open oven on low heat – less than 180 degrees F – for 2-4 hours or until they can be easily crumbled.
Store it in a clean air tight container like canning jars, plastic storage containers or freezer storage bags. Put a label and date as dried herbs are best used within a year only. For best flavor, keep the leaves whole. Only crush it when you are ready to use them.
2. Freeze them
Best use for: Basil and Mint
Another easy and safe way to preserve your herbs is freezing. Refrigerating your herb doesn’t kill the bacteria but at least put them in a dormant state. Make good use of your ice cube trays . Follow this step by step process:
- After washing the herb, dry it for an hour or 2.
- Chop the herbs.
- Put them in the ice cube trays.
- Fill the ice cube trays with olive oil or butter or even water.
- Freeze them.
- You can use the herb cubes directly to sauce, soups, etc.
This technique often seals in flavors better than other methods. It cuts down on wilting and discoloration.
3. Use salt
Best use for: Rosemary, Tarragon, Marjoram, Thyme, Lavender and Oregano
You can also use salt to preserve herbs. It’s a creative way to add flavor to your food. You’ll save since you will use less of it in the long run. There are 2 ways that you can do this. Follow this easy step by step process.
- Prepare coarse ground salt and dried herbs.
- In a jar or any resealable container, alternate layers of salt and whole leaves.
- Press firmly between layers until the jar is full.
- Prepare 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 2 cups of fresh herbs (mixed varieties or 1 variety will work)
Optional: You can also add garlic for more flavor
- Combine the salt and herb in the food processor or blender.
- Mix until well incorporated or until the whole mixture resembles salt.
- Dry it out by spreading it in a sheet pan for a day or 2.
- Once finished, store it in the air-tight containers. Put it in a cool, dark place.
For a flavorful treat, you can also use sugar instead of salt in herbs like mint.
4. Use vinegar
Best for:Rosemary, Tarragon, or Basil
Vinegar is used as a preservative for both domestic use and in the food industry because of its acetic acid content and low pH. It is in fact used for the preservation, or pickling, of a wide variety of foods such as vegetables, meat, fish products, and spiced fruits. This can also be used to preserve herbs!
Get all the bottles and corks that you’ve saved and let’s get started.
- Prepare washed 4-5 sprigs of fresh herbs and put it in the glass bottle or jar.
- Fill the bottle with the vinegar of your choice. It can be white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Optional: Put chili flakes and garlic
- Seal with a tight-fitting lid and set aside for 1-4 weeks to let the flavor blend.
- Tie on a hand-written card with serving suggestions around the neck of the bottle. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy using it for up to 3 months.
See? It’s all pretty simple! Share your favorite way of preserving herbs in the comment box below.
Join our community to learn more and share your experience and ideas.