The three most used methods to store fresh herbs, so they can be used months and even years later are drying, freezing, or steeping in oil.
How to Preserve Herbs by Drying
- Harvest and wash the herbs.Always start with a good wash under running water to remove the dust and possible bugs off the leaves. Shake off any excess water.
- Spread the herbs to dry on a paper towel.Spread them one by one, so that each leaf has its own place on the towel.
- Place another towel on top of the herbs.Cover them all with another paper towel and press gently.
- Leave them to sit for a few days, until all the moisture has evaporated.
- Store in plastic bags and label them.
If you prefer, you can tie the stems into small loose bundles and hang them upside down in a warm, dry place not directly exposed to sunlight, allowing good air circulation. Just make sure not to leave them for too long, as their flavour will disappear. Another way is to use the microwave. Just put them for 1 to 2 minutes on high power.
Tip to remember: Different herbs will need different time to dry completely, as they do not all retain the same amount of water.
How to Preserve Herbs by Freezing
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Although not the best way of preserving the structure of fresh herbs, freezing them still works well, as it preserves the essential oils that give herbs their flavour. The good thing about it is that the culinary herbs are already chopped and ready to be used.
Harvest and wash the herbs. Never forget to wash away the dust and debris from the leaves.
Arrange your herbs in ice-cube trays. Another good thing about this is you can organise, tag or remember which herb is where.
Pour water in the ice-cube trays. Careful not to fill them to the top. Larger cubes melt slowly, causing your already melted herbs to overcook. Frozen herbs will not be good for garnish, use them only for cooking.
Freeze. You can also freeze the herbs with olive oil instead of water. This will reduce the browning during cooking that can happen when you just freeze the fresh herbs, as is. You can also get creative – make your own blend of herbs, mixing oregano, thyme, parsley, and sage.
Tip to remember:If you store your herbs in plastic bags, thin out the layer as much as you can. And make sure to remove excess air.
How to Preserve Herbs in Oil
- Wilt herbs for 12 hours. If your herbs are freshly picked, you have to wash them and leave them to dry.
- Cut herbs into pieces. You can either use a knife, or just tear them with hands. After that, crush all pieces with a mortar and pestle.
- Put the crushed herbs in a clean jar.
- Add oil. Make sure the herbs are completely covered. Most people use olive oil, but it’s not problematic to use other types of oil either. Also, the jar should not be completely full. The herbs will expand later, so there should be at least two fingers of free space at the top.
- Stir the concoction.
- Cap the jar tightly.
- Keep the jar in a sunny spot. Herbs shouldn’t be in the sun when drying, but only for this method, sunlight is your friend. Shake the jar a few times a day.
- Let it sit for 4-6 weeks.
Tip to remember:Strain the herbs out of the oil with a cheesecloth. After the jar sat in the sun for a few weeks, you can squeeze the oil out and pour into another jar. If you want, you can enrich it even more with Vitamin E oil.