Preserving and Storing Fresh Herbs-3 Easy Ways

I discovered herbs a few years ago, really because I thought it would sound cool if I said I had a fresh herb garden. Then I discovered I actually did like herbs and they are super easy to grow and use. And the smell……oh man, makes you feel refreshed with just one sniff.

Starting at the top left and moving clockwise-thyme, parsley, oregano, sage, rosemary, chives

I highly recommend growing your own. They need a fully sunny spot and watering every now and then. My experience is that if taken care of in a garden they will grow as big as they are allowed space for. But if you don’t have space for a garden, or don’t want a ginormous amount of herbs they grow easily in pots on a patio or window sill. And…bonus…many herbs are perennials-they grow back every year. Check this list for a guide to annual and perennial herbs. 

I’m a huge fan of Mother Earth News-they have a great guide to herb growing. It’s worth a read.

It’s the time of year to think about freezing and canning and drying and canning and freezing the summer and fall produce. Herbs are no different.

Before you begin:

  1. Remember these are fresh outdoor grown plants….check them for spiders, spider webs, grass, etc. before you preserve them.  I simply shake the herbs gently before preparing them, to make sure they are free of anything from the outside. No one wants frozen spider in their soup, people.
  2. I pull the leaves off the stems before doing anything with them. The exception is parsley. The stem of the parsley is much softer and easier to chew then the stem of, let’s say….oregano.

Here are three ways you can save your herbs and have them through the spring when your perennials will start producing again:

  1. Drying: Gather a small bunch of herbs, tie them with some twine (or ribbon, or string, or whatever you have). Don’t tie them super tight, but tight enough to hold. Then hang them somewhere dry. They need to have circulation in order to dry well. This will take a while, and make sure they are completely dry before storing them.   Storing: you can keep dried herbs in a freezer bag in the freezer, or simply place them in an airtight glass container in the cupboard. They will last all winter. Lastly, label, label, label.
Tie with twine a tight-enough knot, but not too tight.
beautiful parsley bundles

2. Freezing: Super simple….either freeze the entire stem and leaf system that you cut from the garden in a freezer bag or pull the leaves off and place them in the freezer bag. This is easiest, quickest way to preserve them. Storing: Store each herb seperately and as with anything frozen, make sure to get all of the air out of the freezer bag before sealing. Label each bag with herb name and date.

Freeze whole leaves is easy...simply strip the leaves from the stem and place in a freezer bag before putting in the freezer.
Freeze whole leaves is easy…simply strip the leaves from the stem and place in a freezer bag before putting in the freezer.

3. Freezing in Olive Oil: This method would be used for the herbs you plan on cooking with…think soups, stir-fry, roasting, crockpot meals. For this method, take each leaf off the stems and discard the stem. Chop herbs into fairly fine pieces. Using a mini-muffin tin, fill each muffin slot with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, or 3/4 full.  Then put enough chopped herb in each slot (I put one kind in each slot, rather than mix them. But hey, if you’re into mixing them, go for it.) until the olive oil comes to the top of the muffin tin without overflowing. Push the herbs down  so each is coated. Put the tin in the freezer until each is frozen. Storing: When each little herby chunk of goodness is frozen remove from the freezer and set the pan in a warm tray of water for about 20 seconds. This will help soften the cubes just enough to remove them nicely from the muffin tin.  Remove from the tin and place a few in a freezer bag, returning them to the freezer to stay to frozen until you need them. To cook with them, simply remove the amount you need and add it to your kettle or pan. Tip:Work quickly! The oil will thaw rapidly. Have your freezer bags labeled before adding the herb cubes so that you can quickly place the cubes back into the freezer.

I used mini-muffin tins, but you could also use ice cube trays.
I used mini-muffin tins, but you could also use ice cube trays.
Frozen herb cubes…great for cooking!

Did I miss anything? I would love to know how else to preserve herbs for use throughout the winter.

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