How to Store Fresh Herbs From the Garden
If you’ve been growing plants for food or business, you’re probably familiar with humic acid. Humic acid comes from the final breakdown of organic matter. The chemical and biological humification of the decayed organic matter becomes concentrated and compressed into layers. Eventually, the substance turns into an organic, acidic electrolyte that can be used to amend the soil and improve its structure.
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The beauty of growing your own food is that you get an almost endless supply of fresh, healthy greens for your daily meals. Just imagine plucking fresh herbs from your indoor or outdoor herb garden.
Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow, primarily if you use an herb kit. You can set your herb kit indoors or outdoors because these plants will grow anywhere as long as there’s enough sunlight.
Suppose you’ve also got a nice herb garden with plants ready to harvest, and you ended up with excesses – how do you store fresh herbs? Fresh herbs store wonderfully, and many techniques extend their shelf life. In this guide, we are outlining the many ways to keep fresh herbs.
How to Store Fresh Herbs
How do you store fresh herbs from your indoor or outdoor garden? Find out here the different methods of preserving homegrown herbs.
Removing moisture from fresh herbs extends their shelf life and intensifies their flavor. Dried herbs are best for spice rubs and as a seasoning for long-cooked stews, braises, soups, and sauces!
Some herbs dry well; others do not. Generally, this method is suitable for the thick-leaf hearty herbs like rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and oregano. These herbs are less delicate and do not lose their aroma through evaporation because they thrive in hot, sunny conditions.
If you don’t have a food dehydrator at home, you can use the oven or microwave to dry your herbs. The microwave does a terrific job of preserving the flavor and color of fresh herbs!
Microwave-drying: Prepare the herbs by cutting off the undesirable bits and rinsing the herbs with clean water. Pat dry with paper towels. They should be almost dry before preparing for drying.
Pick the leaves off the herbs and spread them on a microwave-safe plate lined with two layers of paper towels. Cover the herbs with another layer of paper towel then microwave on high for one minute. Stop to check the herbs, then microwave in several 20-second bursts until completely dry. Store the dried herbs in an airtight glass bottle.
Oven-drying: If you’re using the oven, the preparation is the same. You’ll use a pan lined with a cookie sheet to oven-dry the prepared herbs. Set the oven to less than 180 degrees F and dry for 2 to 4 hours. You have to check frequently to achieve the desired dryness. Note that oven-drying will reduce the potency and flavor of the herbs. Also, the leaves could turn brown.
You can store fresh herbs without much preparation aside from rinsing the herbs well and patting them dry before packing them in a ziplock bag and chucking them in the freezer. But if you want to prep the herbs first, you can blanch the herbs in boiling water and chill in a ziplock bag as is or chopped.
You can also blend the fresh herbs in a blender, pour them into ice cube trays, and then store them in the freezer. This is an excellent technique if you want to split the herbs into small portions for cooking. You can also preserve the fresh herbs in oil and then pour them into an airtight bottle for chilling or ice cube trays for freezing.
How to Preserve Herbs
Oil: Oil makes an excellent preservative for fresh herbs because it can maintain and even enhance the flavor and color of the herb. Ideally, you want to use oil that doesn’t have its own flavor unless you intentionally want to alter the taste of the fresh herb.
Extra virgin olive oil is the best oil to preserve fresh herbs because its flavor is not too overpowering and contains fewer polyunsaturated fatty acids than many other vegetable oils. Canola oil is an excellent alternative to olive oil. This oil doesn’t turn rancid quickly, and its natural flavor is relatively mild, almost tasteless.
Vinegar: Vinegar of all types can be used to preserve herbs, including white and red vinegar. The solution is naturally free of microbes because it’s a strong acid. To preserve fresh herbs, pour vinegar into an airtight bottle, add your favorite fresh herbs and some seasoning like garlic and chili paste, then seal with the lid. Let the flavors infuse the vinegar within one to four weeks, strain with a mesh sieve, and it’s ready to use.
White vinegar is best for preserving dill, basil, chervil, lemon balm, and other herbs with a delicate flavor. Aromatic herbs with a strong, savory flavor like thyme, parsley, and sage suit red vinegar the best.
Syrup: Sugar syrup works excellent as a preserving agent for fresh herbs. Make your own herb and syrup infusion by simmering sugar and fresh herbs in a saucepan and bringing it to a boil until fully dissolved. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool completely. Strain the herbs and pour the solution into a clean glass jar with an airtight lid. You can use the infusion to flavor cocktails, desserts, cold drinks, and grilled dishes.
Salt: Salt makes an excellent preservative for most foods, including fresh herbs, because it draws moisture out, which effectively preserves the fresh herbs and inhibits microbial growth.
To use salt to preserve fresh herbs, clean the herbs thoroughly by rinsing them in water. Pat the fresh herbs dry and discard thick stems. Pour a thick layer of salt into a clean glass jar, add a layer of fresh herbs, then pour another layer of salt on top. Alternate the layers between salt and fresh herbs until the jar has been filled. Close with the airtight lid and let sit for at least a week in the fridge. Give the mixture a good stir every seven days and then transfer the salted herbs to an airtight glass jar and stick in the refrigerator. The salted herbs should keep for at least six months.
Wine: Tender herbs are best used to create herbal wine. The alcohol in wine works as a preservative that extends the shelf life of fresh herbs. Red and white wine are both suitable to use to create herbal wine.
To make your own herbal wine, pour about a quart of wine into a mason jar or glass jar with an airtight lid. Add the fresh herbs of your choice, and then cover with the airtight lid. Let the fresh herbs infuse the wine with flavor, and it’s ready to use. Herbal wine can be used to season salads, sauces, and desserts.
Butters and Cheeses: Adding fresh and dried herbs to butter and cheeses extends the herbs’ shelf life while also enhancing the flavors of butter and cheeses. To create herbed butter, soften the butter at room temperature in a mixing bowl. Add finely chopped dried or fresh herbs and your choice of seasonings like salt, garlic, etc. Add olive oil to the mixture and mix with a fork thoroughly. Spoon the mixture on a baking sheet or cling wrap, then roll into a log. Chill in the fridge and slice into coin-shaped portions whenever needed.
Soft cheeses are best used for making herbed cheeses that you can spread over toast or bread akin to cream cheese. Fresh chives, parsley, and tarragon are popular in making herbed cheese. Making the herbed cheese is similar to herbed butter; you need to mix the herbs in softened cheese and beat until fully incorporated. Pack in serving portions and keep chilled in the fridge. You can also season feta cheese with your favorite herbs by mixing cubed feta cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and your favorite herbs in an airtight glass jar.
Shop ECOgardener Herb Starter Kit
Experimenting with herbs is fun, and the outcome is always delicious! Build your own herb garden and start enjoying fresh herbs at home and beyond. Get an herb starter kit today and discover the joys of gardening and preserving fresh herbs!
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