Every time we go to the farmers market and get loaded with fruits and veggies, the one product that we usually get carried away with and find that we’ve snipped or bought more than we can use right away, it’s herbs. But rather than let them go to waste, here are some ways to save herbs for later after the garden has gone quiet for the winter because with these five storage methods, you can have your fresh herbs and plenty of time to eat them, too.
This is the most popular way to preserve herbs from the garden. What to do: Dry them in a dark, airy place. Make sure they are not in direct sunlight and have good air circulation around them. Bundle them with rubber bands and hang them upside down. To remove leaves or flowers from dried stems, simply strip the dried plants from the stems or shake into a paper bag until the stems are cleaned, then empty the bag into a spice jar. Leaves and seeds should be kept whole, to be crushed down when needed.
An alternative to drying herbs is to freeze them. Some, not all, herbs will retain their properties when frozen. The freezing process will darken leaves and change the look of the herbs, but will hardly be noticeable when blended into mixes or added into hot liquids.
What to do: Harvest and rinse in cool water and pat dry. Remove the leaves and flowers from the stiff stems. Use sharp scissors and cut them up. Sprinkle them over a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for about an hour. Put in freezer bags and return to the freezer. This method allows you to sprinkle them into recipes instead of freezing them in a big clump.
Infuse oils and vinegar
A great way to preserve herbal flavors without having to make space for the herbs themselves is to infuse them in oils to use in recipes. Olive and safflower are both great oils to use along with strongly flavored herbs. All you need is a sterilized bottle filled about one-third of the way with fresh herbs that have been well rinsed and patted dry. Pour the oil over the herbs and allow the concoction to sit at room temperature for about two weeks. Vinegars are also great for herbal infusions and the directions are the same.
Infuse herbs on water
A lot of fresh herbs can find a happy home in a glass full of water for a couple of weeks after they’re harvested. All you need to do is fill the bottom of a glass with water and add the herbs stem first. Be sure that when you cut them, you leave some of the stem so it can take up water from the glass. Cilantro needs to be stored in the fridge for maximum freshness, but basil and parsley can sit on the counter at room temperature. Just be sure to change the water every couple of days, and wait to rinse the herbs until you use them.
Grow herbs indoor
The easiest way to save fresh herbs is to keep a plant full of them at your fingertips year-round. Oregano, rosemary and thyme are easy to grow but require a lot of light, so be sure you have sunny window available in the winter. Basil and cilantro can be tricky to grow as indoor herbs, but mint, chives and lemongrass are super easy and abundant enough to get you through the cold weather months. Look for varieties of all of these herbs that were specifically bred for indoor growth.
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