Updated: Oct 31, 2019
The flavor and aroma of garden-grown herbs is something to be savored. Thankfully, this appreciation doesn't have to end when the gardening season is over. It is easy to preserve herbs like basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, cilantro, oregano, dill, tarragon, and sage so they can be enjoyed all year-round.
All herbs should be picked at the peak of their quality. Pick them in the morning when they are the freshest and preserve them immediately. Any waiting and they will begin to lose their prized intensity. Rinse them in cool water and pick through them to remove any that are discolored or withered.
One of the easiest methods that doesn't require any special equipment, air-drying has been around for ages. It takes longer than other methods, but for a minimal investment, it is a great option.
Gather the herbs in bunches and tie a string or rubber band around the stems to hold them together. Choose a warm, well-ventilated, location away from sunlight and hang them upside-down to dry. They will be fully dried in 1-4 weeks, depending on the type of herb. Check them weekly to monitor their progression. Once the herbs are dried, store them as they are or seal them in glass jars.
If you have a dehydrator, drying your herbs is quick and easy. Arrange single layers of washed herbs on the trays, set the heat to medium-low, and let them dry for 8-12 hours. Check them every 4 hours, or so. Some herbs dry quickly while others take longer. Drying time depends on the type of dehydrator, so times may vary. Store the herbs in sealed glass jars.
Drying in the Oven
A third way to dry herbs is in the oven. Start by preheating the oven to 150F. Cover baking trays with parchment paper and spread the herbs out in a single layer on the parchment. Prop the oven door open slightly so the herbs don't get cooked. They will take 1-4 hours to dry, depending on the type of herbs. They are dry enough when they crumble easily between your fingers. Dry herbs should be stored in sealed glass jars.
All herbs can be frozen whole and untreated. Wrap them loosely in plastic wrap for protection and then put them in a freezer bag for additional protection. Use these herbs straight from the freezer. Herbs do change consistency during the freezing process, so frozen herbs are best used in cooking. They will not regain their original texture and should be avoided in dishes calling for fresh herbs, especially as garnishes.
Frozen Herb Cubes
Herb cubes are a quick and convenient way to preserve and use herbs. Chop the herbs up finely and pack them into ice cube trays. Cover the herbs with vegetable broth or water and put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, they can be removed from the trays and stored in a freezer bag. Herbs frozen this way are great for use in soups, stews, and broths.
All preserved herbs are best used within one year for maximum flavor and potency. After a year, they begin to deteriorate in quality.
We'd love to hear about the herbs that you are growing in your garden. What is your favorite method for preserving them? Do you have any methods not listed here that you’d like to share with our readers?
Blog by Jenny Dunklee, Senior Plant Expert, BloomCatch