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How to store and preserve fresh herbs from the garden

Fresh herbs are unrivalled for flavouring dishes and adding freshness.

They can be integrated literally anywhere!

In salads, marinades, roast chicken recipes or soups, on pasta, tomato and mozzarella dishes or on pizzas.

Herb plants, basil and rosemary

Summer is a time of abundance in the window boxes, and herbs often grow faster than we have time to eat them.

To take advantage of this year-round abundance, here’s how to store surplus fresh herbs.

Before you start

Before getting started, it’s important to consider two aspects: the different methods of preserving herbs, and the way they are usuallyused in cooking.

In fact, certain methods of preserving herbs are better suited to different species.

Hanging herbs for drying

For example, thyme can be dried or frozen, whereas drying is not suitable for cilantro leaves, which will lose all their aromatic potential.

Oregano, on the other hand, gains in flavor when dried.

Also, preservation methods can be chosen according to your cooking habits.

For example, I often use thyme sprigs to stuff roasts, pork fillets or whole fish. So I prefer to freeze whole thyme sprigs, which go straight from the freezer to the frying pan.

Do you love pesto? This will be a great way to pass on your remaining basil.

1. Bring plants indoors

Potted thyme - How to store fresh herbs
Potted thyme

If you grow potted herbs outdoors, you can bring them indoors in autumn.

Bring them in gradually, for example by taking them out during the day and placing them indoors in the evening, when temperatures drop below 10 degrees Celsius.

On the other hand, having tested this method, not all plants cope very well with this transition from outdoors to indoors.

2. Store herbs in the fridge

How to store surplus fresh herbs
Rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives

Herbs can also be stored for 2 or 3 weeks in the fridge if the stems are placed in a jar with a little water.

3. Drying herbs

How to store fresh herbs

Drying herbs is an excellent idea and can be done in just a few steps:

  • Start by rinsing the herbs with water and gently drying them with a cloth or paper towel.
  • Using string or rope, bundle the herb stems together and hung them upside down to dry. Hang them on doorknobs or coat hangers, away from bright light and in a well-ventilated spot.
  • When the stems are dry, keep them in airtight jars.

Oven-drying herbs

You can also use the oven to dry herbs (provided you keep a close eye on them!). All you need to do is set the oven temperature to minimum, place the herbs flat out, if possible on a rack to promote air circulation, and leave the oven door slightly open.

The problem with conventional oven drying is that the minimum oven temperature is too high and often uneven. For example, in my old oven, food cooks faster when placed at the bottom of the oven, which didn’t make sense.

The dehydrator

Excalibur 9-tray dehydrator

The best and most effective method is to use a dehydrator. I have this model, the Excalibur with 9 trays*, and I couldn’t do without it!

I also use it to dry my hot peppers, berries, leftover bread to make breadcrumbs, dry homemade pasta and so on.

Works well with: rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, chives, mint.

4. Freezing herbs

Basil - How to store fresh herbs

Freezing herbs is another excellent way to preserve them.

Frozen herbs are mainly used for cooking, as they soften in the freezer.

A first method is to chop the herbs and store them in an ice cube tray with a little olive oil.

The result is small “ice cubes” of herbs that can be added at the end of cooking to flavour soups, sauces or stir-fries.

Works well with: chives, parsley, basil.

The second, simpler method is also my favorite. This involves freezing herbs in freezer bags.

Basil, chive and parsley leaves are snipped beforehand, while I keep rosemary, tarragon and thyme stems as they are.

Sage leaves are individually frozen flat before being placed together in a freezer bag.

Frozen rosemary sprigs, like thyme sprigs, are great in cocktails, to flavor broths or garnish fish, whole chickens and roasts.

Basil, parsley or chives, still frozen, can be added to pizzas, sauces, stir-fries or pasta dishes at the end of cooking.

Works with: basil, parsley, chives, dill, coriander, mint, tarragon, sage…

5. Preparing flavored butters

Herbed butter - how to store surplus herbs
Herbal butter
Photo: Pixabay

Instead of the classic pesto or chimichurri, you can also make flavored butters such as “lemon and chives” or “garlic and parsley”.

The herbs are mixed with butter softened to room temperature, then rolled in plastic wrap and placed in the fridge or freezer.

All that’s left is to cut small slices for serving.

Delicious with grilled fish or shrimp!

Recipes with fresh herbs

Drying herbs

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