by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
I love cooking with fresh herbs, which is why when we moved here, the herb garden wound up being planted two steps from the front door. I wanted to be able to step out and get a quick pinch of this herb or that between stirring the pot. But even with my laid back life of no work (ha ha), it’s not always that simple or convenient to run outside when it’s raining, for example. So, I have learned to keep plenty of fresh herbs at hand in the kitchen where no shoes or umbrellas are necessary. But for an herb-fiend like me, that means finding a way to keep them at their just-picked best.
The Herb Bouquet
It goes without saying that I have experimented with any number of ways to preserve the freshness of herbs. One of my most favorite is the counter-top bouquet. As gardeners, we all know how to keep just-cut flowers for many days on the counter. Simply cut the stems cleanly and drop them into a vase or jar filled with water. This works very well on herbs like sage, lemon balm, mint, and onion, but herbs such as dill and fennel don’t respond as well. Some herbs will respond better if the vase is placed in the door of the fridge and in this case I usually cover the herbs loosely with a plastic bag to prevent wilting.
To avoid spills, select a jar or glass that fits snugly in the door-shelf of the refrigerator. Fill the glass about two-thirds full of water and be sure all the stem ends are in the water so they do not wilt. Check the water regularly and refill as needed.
Another simple method of keeping herbs fresh, is to roll freshly picked and washed herbs up in a damp paper towel like a burrito. You can fit quite a few herb burritos in a gallon zipper bag and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to ten days! Just make sure the paper towels aren’t soaking wet or left to dry out.
Of course, it’s always best to gather fresh herbs in the morning before the day gets hot. Cut them cleanly with a sharp pair of scissors and get them into water immediately.
Learn how to grow and use the world’s oldest, safest, and most medicinal herbs with this easy step-by-step guide! From starting seeds to preparing home remedies this is a treasured resource that you will want to turn to time and time again. Look inside!
Freezing Whole Herbs
Freezing is one of the easiest and fastest methods of retaining the fresh flavor of herbs that do not dry well. Frozen herbs store well, too. When prepared correctly, most herbs will retain their characteristic flavor for four to six months. Frozen herbs also take up little space and are easy and economical to prepare.
Begin by deciding how and in what the herbs will be frozen in and reserve one particular space in the freezer specifically for them to avoid wasting a lot of time looking for them later. In a standard freezer, the door shelves serve this purpose well. Some people advocate blanching herbs that will be frozen, but it isn’t really necessary and may reduce their flavor.
To freeze whole herbs, begin by dividing them into small, serving-sized bunches. Unruly herbs can be tied tightly with a bit of string or a small rubber band to keep them together. They can then be placed into freezer bags, labeled with the name and date, and frozen. Just remember that most herbs shrink quite a bit once they freeze so, after the bag looks full, put a few more bunches in it to save freezer bags and space.
To use whole frozen herbs, simply pull out a bunch or two, remove the tie and chop them up. If frozen herbs are a bit too moist for what you would like to use them for, run them under cold water for one minute and then drain them on towels before using. Just remember that thawed herbs will be limp, but that does not affect their flavor.
Freezing Minced Herbs
Dicing herbs before freezing can be even more efficient than freezing them whole, since all the chopping is already done and there are no strings to bother with. Before chopping and freezing, make sure the herbs are dry or else they will freeze together in a huge herb ice cube that can be difficult to break apart. Pack the chopped herbs into a zip-top freezer bag and lay flat to freeze. Another way to prevent the herbs from sticking together is to spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them until they are hard before putting them into the storage bags. This method involves more time and effort and it is hard to say whether or not it is worth it.
Herb cubes are very easy to prepare, convenient, and yield an excellent finished product. Chopped herbs in a bit of water rarely get frost burn. Begin by removing tough or bland stems and finely chop the leaves. Tightly pack several teaspoons of the diced herb into each section of an ice cube tray. Add just enough water to each cell so that it is visible at the surface, but not so much that the herbs float in it. Freeze the herb cubes for about an hour or until solid. Remove the cubes from the trays and store them in labeled freezer bags or rigid freezer containers. Herb cubes can be tossed whole into any hot dish or thawed in a strainer or on paper towels before being added to cold or dry dishes.
These are just a few ways to keep herbs at their fresh-picked best. For more tips and tricks on preserving the freshness of herbs, check out The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs in our bookstore.
© 2014 Jill Henderson Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.
Learn how to grow and use the world’s oldest, safest, and most medicinal herbs with this easy step-by-step guide! From starting seeds to preparing home remedies, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs is a treasured resource that you will turn to time and time again.
Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.