There are a number of ways to preserve fresh herbs when these are over-abundant. These methods not only decrease waste but ensure a continuous supply of herbs.
Drying herbs is an easy, efficient means of preserving fresh herbs, but herbs with a high water content seem to mold before they ever dry. To preserve herbs with a high water content, like basil, chives, lemon balm, mint and tarragon, fresh freezing is a better option.
Before drying or freezing herbs, shake to remove dirt, chop off long stems and discard any withered leaves. If you wash them, make sure to dry them thoroughly.
Drying works well for ‘harder’ (sturdier) herbs like oregano, thyme and sage. Secure the stems together using a rubber band and hang upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place away from sunlight. Leave to dry until the leaves crumble.
Spread herbs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in a 150° F oven with the door slightly ajar. Check herbs frequently and remove when crumbly; time will vary according to the herb in question. Alternately place in a hot oven after baking a cake or lasagne to use up the leftover heat.
Dried herbs may be stored in an airtight container for up to a year.
This method is suitable for ‘soft’ herbs, those added at the end of recipes or used raw in dishes e.g. parsley, coriander, mint. Clean well before placing in freezer bags.
Freezing in water or broth
Chop up with a mezzaluna or sharp knife and spoon into an ice cube tray, packing tightly. Pour water or broth in slowly and place in the freezer; within 24 hours you will have herb cubes which you can pop out and store in a freezer bag. Drop the cubes into soups or sauces as you need them.
Freezing in oil
As with the method above, using oil instead of water. This method decreases freezer burn when using delicate herbs and also makes cubes ready for use in recipes requiring oil in the first place.
Frozen cubes may be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
You can mix up the herbs, too; think about freezing a bouquet garni of sage, thyme, and rosemary to add to winter roasts or potatoes.
Don’t forget to label each container or bag with the type of herb (and oil) inside. Happy herby cooking!