How to preserve herbs

Whether you're simply grown too much parsley, or have some clippings of rosemary you don't know what to do with, preserving is a great way to extend the life of herbs so that you can enjoy them at a later day. Below you'll find a couple of different methods to help you get the most out of your herbs.

Refrigeration/counter (from Vegan Street)

This is a way to extend the use of fresh herbs for the short term. With the exception of a few herbs that are damaged by the cold of refrigeration (basil comes to mind), you can keep fresh herbs going at least a week and sometimes more simply by maintaining a practice of simple managed care in your fridge. After snipping off your herbs at the bottom of the stems, you can store in a glass filled with enough water for the stem ends and use the herbs as you need them, changing the water every couple of days. Fresh herbs that are damaged by the cold, such as basil, can be stored this way at room temperature. With proper changing of the water, they can be stored for up to two weeks this way. Washing them as you use them instead of before will also help to extend their freshness.

Another refrigeration method that works even better at extending the freshness of herbs and is especially useful for when you have a lot is storing them in airtight containers with a damp kitchen towel that is changed every few days. I've kept herbs fresh this way for two to three weeks without a problem. This is easier for those of us who are nervous of knocking over glasses in the fridge.

Freezing (from Vegan Street)

For the herbs you want to be able to use months from now, freezing may be your best option. For harder herbs with woody stems and smaller leaves like rosemary, thyme and oregano, freezing them whole on the stem might be your best option. Cut on the stem where the leaves begin, rinse, dry, and freeze on a cookie sheet or other flat surface. After freezing for 24 hours, place them in individual, labeled freezer bags for easy use whenever you want them. Once frozen, they can be removed from the stem by rolling over the leaves with a rolling pin.

For softer herbs like basil, mint, and cilantro, the ice cube method might be your best strategy for keeping them for an extended time. Rinse, remove from the stems, and process with a liquid like water, broth or oil in a food processor. (I used broth: the issue with oil in addition to the calories is there are some herbs, like mint, you will likely not want to cook with oil.) Spoon into your ice cube tray, freeze for at least 24 hours, then pop out and place in labeled freezer bags. These herb cubes are great to use in soups, stews, sauces and more in the months ahead.

Drying (from Wikihow)

There are an abundance of methods for drying herbs (see a long list here), but I tend to just hang a bunch of herbs upside-down in my kitchen, especially over a warm area such as my oven, where the hot air will speed up the drying process. I've been successful drying rosemary and bay leaves with this technique, and I'll be trying some more herbs this year.

Indoor drying is preferred as it will keep the flavour, colour and qualities of the herb better intact than outdoor drying. Air drying is good for tender leaved herbs. It's also an easy one to do as once the herbs have been prepared, you can leave them to dry without having to do more. They also decorate the kitchen nicely, and even act as a natural air-freshener!

How do you get the most of out your herbs? Let us know in the comments below!

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