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Preserving Herbs

Growing your own herbs is easy, fun, and rewarding.  And if you’re rewarded with an abundant harvest, it’s good to know what to do with all that bounty.  Here are some common methods of preserving herbs.

Drying:  Pick stems early in the day.  If they have not been sprayed with pesticides and are fairly clean, then avoid washing the leaves as you can lose some of the oils.  If you must wash, rinse quickly in cold water and dry thoroughly.  Bundle stems in small bunches (rubber bands work well as they’ll contract as the stems shrink).  Place the bunches in paper bags to which air holes have been added.  Hang the bags in a spot that is warm, dark, and dry, with good air circulation.  Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in air tight containers.  Store up to a year.  Air-drying works best for herbs with lower moisture content, like rosemary, thyme, sage, savory, bay, and marjoram.  You can also use a dehydrator, following the manufacturer’s direction.  It’s best to avoid using a microwave or regular oven to dry herbs as these methods diminish the essential oils and, therefore, the flavor.

          Freezing:  You can layer fresh herbs on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer.  Once frozen, seal in a freezer bag or other airtight container.  Use within 2 to 3 months.

          For longer term freezer storage and just-picked flavor (great for herbs with higher moisture content like basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, and chives) chop the herbs finely and pack into any ice cube tray.  Add just enough water to hold the herbs together.  When frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and place in airtight freezer bags or containers. They will keep for up to six months.