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Preserving the Harvest…..Herbs

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

One of our goals this year was to add more herbs to our garden for both culinary and medicinal uses. Many times those uses overlap. The thing with herbs is that they do not grow year round outside (even in zone 9) and they are not always ready at the same time complimentary vegetables are ready. For instance cilantro is one of the first herbs ready in our garden and by the time the tomatoes and onions are being harvested, the cilantro has already gone to seed.

The remedy to this dilemma is preserving the herbs. There are several different ways to preserve herbs. You can decide how to preserve them based on how you are going to use that herb.

The best time to harvest herbs is early in the morning when they still have a high moisture content.

I have a set of worksheets I print each year to keep track of what I’ve preserved. You can get the worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below. 

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

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Dehydrating Herbs

Dehydrating herbs is probably the easiest way to preserve herbs. You can tie them in small bunches and hang them upside down to dry. This is also a really pretty way to dehydrate herbs. It’s best to hang them out of direct sunlight so that they do not get bleached out. 

You can also take the herb leaves off of the stems and use a dehydrator to dry out the herbs. This is what I usually do. Most herbs will be dry in less than an hour in a dehydrator. 

You can use solar screens to dehydrate herbs outside. This hanging one is really neat. Or put them on a tray in the oven on the lowest temperature to dehydrate. I’m always afraid someone will come try to preheat the oven and cook my herbs so I don’t use the oven method. 

Dehydrated herbs are the kind of herbs you buy on the spice aisle at the grocery store. So, however you use those is how you would use your homemade ones. 

This season I’ve dehydrated mint, sweet basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, stevia, rosemary, cilantro, parsley and dill. I love seeing my jars fill up a little each week. I crumble most of these a little as I’m adding them to the jars. 

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

Freezing Herbs

So, apparently there is a right way and a wrong way to freeze herbs. I know you will find this hard to believe (especially if you read about how I freeze green beans) I do it the wrong way. And it turns out just fine. 

The right way to freeze herbs is to chop them up, put them in ice cube trays with some water. When you want to use them you can add a little cube of herbs to whatever you are cooking. 

The “wrong way” to freeze herbs is to put the herbs into a ziplock bag, remove all the air and put in the freezer. I do remove the leaves from the stems and make sure there is no excess water on the leaves before freezing.

I rarely freeze herbs. There is nothing wrong with freezing herbs, it’s just not my preference. But I do freeze cilantro while we’re waiting for the tomatoes and onions to ripen to make salsa. Salsa needs bright green cilantro in it and dried cilantro just isn’t the same. When we make salsa, I just break off however much cilantro we need and add it to the pot. We cook and can our salsa so the texture of the cilantro is fine. Now, I wouldn’t use this cilantro in pico de gallo since that isn’t cooked. 

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

Herb Pastes

Herb pastes are quickly becoming the new cool way of seasoning food. Did you know you can make them at home…for just a fraction of the cost? You can. 

To make an herb paste just put some fresh herbs in a food processor (a small one is just fine), turn it on and drizzle olive oil over the herbs until you have a paste. Yep. That’s it. Put the paste in a jar and it will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator. Or put the paste in ice cube trays and freeze. Or you can do like I do with our basil pesto and put it in small jars but then freeze it. 

You can do single herb pastes or mix herbs together and make your own blends. 

The only herb paste I do right now is our basil pesto, which also has garlic, pecans and Parmesan in the paste. We use it on our pizza, to stir onto pasta and added to soups. 

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

Preserving Herbs in Salt

Preserving herbs in salt is a new method for me. I read an article on Melisa K. Norris’ site and was intrigued by it. She covers three methods but basically you put both herbs and salt in a jar (make sure all the herb is covered) and the salt preserves the herb. 

I’m trying this method with basil right now. You can read her full article here

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

Herbal Extracts 

So much can be said about herbal extracts and tinctures that I’m just going to hit the highlights.

Herbal extracts can be made using alcohol, water, glycerin or vinegar. It really just depends on what you’re going to use the extract for. If you are wanting to make herbal extracts (or tinctures) to use medicinally, I want to encourage you to check out some of the courses at Vintage Remedies. Their free Herbalism 101 course is a great starter course. 

For culinary uses, most extracts are made with alcohol (usually vodka) or vinegar. For culinary uses you also do not have to be as exact in your recipe as you would need to be for dosing medicinal herbs. 

A popular way of making an herbal extract is to fill a jar about half way with herbs and cover with either vodka or vinegar. Put the jar in a cool, dark place and give it a shake every day for 4-6 weeks. After that time, strain out the herbs and you have an herbal extract to use in your kitchen. 

If you want to measure your herbs and liquid you can use a ratio of 1 part dried herbs to 5 parts liquid or 1 part fresh herbs to 3 parts liquid. This is by weight, not volume. 

Right now I’m making mint and ginger extract. 

Preserving herbs is easy and way cheaper than buying herbs and spices already preserved. Herbs can be preserved by drying or freezing them, putting them in salt and making extracts.

What are some of your favorite herbs and how do you preserve them?

Psst: Don’t forget you can get a free copy of our ebook Ten Herbs from Garden to Table when you subscribe to our blog. You can do that by clicking here

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Holly

Wednesday 15th of April 2020

I was hoping for information on fermenting dried herb parts. Specifically dandelion root and milk thistle seed. Can you advise on doing this?

Angi Schneider

Friday 17th of April 2020

Hi Holly, I've never fermented dried herb part, per say. I have added dried herbs to other ferments and it works great. You could always try to make fermented natural soda with them. This is an area I'm still learning and experimenting with but here's an article on homemade rootbeer that might help.

tessa

Saturday 13th of June 2015

I've never thought of pesto as a paste but the possibilities are endless with this herbal paste idea - you're a genius! Hmm...what can I blend and spread today?

Angi Schneider

Tuesday 16th of June 2015

Let me know what you come up with, I'm sure it will be tasty!

tina

Friday 12th of June 2015

this is an awesome post. I am growing lots of herbs this year and a great way to store. I think I am going to be making some herb pastes and putting in the freezer - nothing like some fresh mint, thyme, basil in mid February to make you smile :) thank you

Kristine

Friday 12th of June 2015

very informative. But as for the freezing in ice cube trays. I have had wonderful success with using olive oil instead of water. I freeze lots of herbs that way and just pop them into ziplock bags when frozen.

Angi Schneider

Friday 12th of June 2015

Oh, Olive oil is a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

Rachel E.

Thursday 11th of June 2015

Great post today! Wow! I need to cut back my cilantro because it is huge. I used some last night in a taco salad. My husband was the only one to say, "MMMMM, cilantro!" Everyone else thought they were eating stinkbugs. LOL