It’s one thing to have a garden that you can eat fresh out of during the summer. But it’s another thing to take time to learn simple techniques to preserving your harvest so you can enjoy your homegrown eats year round.
Today I wanted to share a couple easy techniques for preserving herbs, because I think they are among the easiest things to preserve and the most useful in your kitchen!
Start by collecting your herbs. Preferably, harvest them in the morning before the heat of the day comes out. Also look to select tender young shoots – they are the most flavorful! Finally, try to collect your herbs before they bolt. My older oregano plant is full of flowers, so I opted to cut stems off another, smaller plant.
I’ll start by talking about parsley – it’s easily one of my favorite herbs because it’s so versatile!
Parsley is one of those herbs I adore fresh or dried. I actually love to drink huge handfuls in a green smoothie, too. Last year I did not preserve enough parsley, so I knew that was going to be a focus of my 2013 Garden.
Here is a pictorial guide to my favorite way to store parsley. (Hint: it’s easy!)
Simply use these ice cubes in soups, stews, or whenever you have a recipe that calls for parsley. Other herbs I’ve successfully frozen include sage, mint, cilantro, and oregano. You could also make a batch of pesto and save it this way.
In the past, I’ve hung up herbs to dry, but I’ve never been 100% satisfied with the end result. I decided to try drying herbs in my Nesco Dehydrator (currently: $59.88 on Amazon) this year for comparison. I have to say, I’m sold on it. I bought my Nesco last year and have since used it to dehydrate strawberries, pineapple, apple and pear rings, and make fruit rolls. I’m also thinking about drying lavender flowers in it for homemade potpourri!
Instead of waiting for a week (or more) for the herb bundles to dry, you can dry herbs in about 24 hours in this puppy!
Here are my pretty chamomile flowers, being dried for tea. I have to say, I don’t think I’ll be having tons of chamomile tea this summer. While it’s been a fun and enjoyable process to grow chamomile, I see that one would need LOTS of chamomile to yield a decent amount for storage. (No worries, I’ve got PLENTY of mint to “tea” up!)
I couldn’t be happier with the final result! I was surprised that the completely dried herbs were so vibrant looking! Check out the dried parsley in the lower right-hand corner – it’s so green! It all smells very fresh, too, and I can’t wait to cook with my own dried herbs.
Check out these cute Ball Herb Storage Jars I found! They are currently $16.99 for a 4-pack on Amazon, but I want to say I paid more like $6.99 at QFC. They are top rack dishwasher safe and because they are glass I know I’m going to get a lot of use out of them.
No matter what you put your herbs in, they will last longest when stored in a cool, dry place. I’ve read that they’ll last for about a year, which means I’ll need to replace them with my 2014 Garden. I plan on doing 2-3 more herb preserving sessions this summer in order to stock up my pantry.
For more gardening tips, please see my Frugal Gardening page.
What other ways do you store herbs? Have you ever dried herbs in a dehydrator before?