Home Grown Herbs Uses and Storage Ideas
Many home grown herbs will freeze beautifully to extend their shelf life. For best flavor, use herbs fresh out of the garden whenever possible. Always pinch back basil, thyme, oregano and chives so that you get fullest production out of the season.
Plants like rosemary need a good cutting now and then to keep them from getting too woody. If you haven’t planned a meal around your pruning, try some of these ideas to preserve your herbs.
Wash herbs very well and gently pat dry with paper towels. Wrap leaves or sprigs in freezer paper or place in freezer proof zip-lock bags. Seal and freeze. These herbs can be chopped and thawed for use in cooking, but are not suitable for garnish. They will become limp when thawed. Flavor is best if herbs are used within a few months.
This is a very convenient way of storing herbs. Put the clean, dry herbs into the bottom of an ice cube tray. Fill the compartments with water or stock. Then when you need herbs, just pop them into soups, stews or sauces. You can mix and match to make combinations that you use in your recipes.
Drying Fresh Herbs
One thing to remember when using dried herbs as compared to fresh, is that you want to use 1/3 teaspoon powdered or 1/2 teaspoon crushed for every tablespoon of fresh.
Air drying is the simplest method requiring only rubber bands to secure the stems of herbs together. Just hang upside down in a dark, airy area with good air circulation until dry. This method takes the longest time.
Microwave Drying Herbs
Try this simple microwave drying method with herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme and oregano. Wash and gently pat dry herbs picked in the morning just after the dew has dried. This is when your herbs will have the most oils in the leaves. Spread them out on a microwave safe dish in a single layer between two leaves. Spread them out on a microwave safe dish in a single layer between two paper towels. Place in microwave and cook on high for about a minute Check them. Continue cooking for about 20 seconds at a time until the herbs are just crisp.
Drying Herbs in a Conventional Oven
When drying with a conventional oven, begin by placing the clean herbs on shallow trays in the oven. Leave the oven door ajar and turn the heat to the lowest setting. This would be about 150 degrees. Allow the herbs to dry, testing after each hour. A small electric fan placed to circulate air into the oven cavity will speed the drying time.
Storing Fresh Herbs
When storing, place herbs in airtight jars, out of direct sunlight.
See also: Herbs: More than Flavor