• Jon Mychal Heatherly

Seven Super Ways to Save Your Herbs

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Want a steady supply of cooking herbs year-round? Try these nifty ways to preserve any extras that your garden provides.

Source: jmheatherly.medium.com

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


So you spent all season growing delicious veggies and herbs. Finally, it’s harvest time, and you have a cornucopia before you. What can you do with the excess before it spoils to compost?

Sharing is caring, and that’s the most obvious solution to food surplus. You may still have more than you need right now, though. Fear not, because you can save those tender morsels for cooking next week or even a few months from now.

Plus, all food waste diverted from landfills decreases our carbon footprint and improves soil quality. Reducing food waste diminishes methane production; it would otherwise decompose in landfills. Avoid spoilage and make the most of your food products.


Without further ado, let’s divulge these seven clever ways to preserve your herbs. Many of our ancestors used these methods during eras when families subsisted more for themselves. The seven ways include the following: air drying herbs, using appliances, freezing, making compound butter, sugaring or salting, oil infusions, and vinegar infusions.


Herbal Preservation Methods


Air Drying

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You may elect one of several mechanical methods to dry your herbs faster. While costs of electricity and appliances might be burdensome for some, you can save time this way. “Gardening Know How” elucidates the topic of drying herbs this way.

Sometimes machines are necessary to dry herbs, especially if you live in a humid environment. Set an oven to 125- 175°F (79 °C), and place herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Dry them with the oven door open for just a couple of hours.

For a dehydrator, preheat it between 95 °F (35 °C) to 115 °F (46 °C) and dry herbs for 2–4 hours. You can also use the microwave and flip herbs every 30 seconds, but I don’t suggest it.

Pros: Saves time and dries in humid conditions. Cons: Energy and appliance costs. Loss of essential oils. Shelf Life: 3–4 years. Diminished flavor compared to air drying.


Oven/Microwave

Photo by Tyler Finck on Unsplash


You may elect one of several mechanical methods to dry your herbs faster. While costs of electricity and appliances might be burdensome for some, you can save time this way. “Gardening Know How” elucidates the topic of drying herbs this way.


Sometimes machines are necessary to dry herbs, especially if you live in a humid environment. Set an oven to 125- 175°F (79 °C), and place herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Dry them with the oven door open for just a couple of hours.


For a dehydrator, preheat it between 95 °F (35 °C) to 115 °F (46 °C) and dry herbs for 2–4 hours. You can also use the microwave and flip herbs every 30 seconds, but I don’t suggest it.


Pros: Saves time and dries in humid conditions.

Cons: Energy and appliance costs. Loss of essential oils.

Shelf Life: 3–4 years. Diminished flavor compared to air drying.


Freezing

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Find your favorite of several methods to preserve your herbs by freezing them. Emily Han at The Kitchn talks about filling ice cube trays with chopped herbs and pouring olive oil or broth over them. That saves your produce for a frozen cube flavor infusion the next time you sauté some veggies or start a soup base.

You can also freeze cleaned, towel-dried herbs on their stems in bags. The best herbs to freeze include the following: Basil, Cilantro, Chives, Dill, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme.

Pros: Preserves essential oils and keeps them longer than oil infusions. Can use fresh herbs. Cons: Takes up valuable freezer real estate. Appliance costs. Shelf Life: 12 months.


Compound Butter

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Compound butter combines butter, salt, and herbs into a form that makes a delectable base for meats, veggies, and fish. It’s a staple of French cuisine. Check out Dimitra’s Dishes for a great recipe, and scroll down to see another for herbal pesto.

Pros: Premade cooking bases. Best made on-demand. Cons: Shorter shelf life than dried herbs. Shelf Life: Refrigerated for two weeks or frozen for six months.

Salting

Yet another classic preservation method, salting, extends herbal shelf life. The Bossy Kitchen explains a Romanian technique to do just that. She details using kosher or sea salt without iodine to preserve fresh herbs for months on end. The process takes a couple of weeks, but you add more salt and herbs as it shrinks from dehydration. The salt becomes flavored, as well, and you can do the same with sugar depending on herb flavor.

Pros: Easy. Inexpensive. Cons: Increases sodium or sugar. Shelf Life: 6–12 months.


Oil Infusions

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Cooking oils give another way to preserve herbs through the infusion of essential oils. Popular cooking oils include sunflower, olive, or grapeseed oils. Kresha Faber at Nourishing Joy offers several ways to infuse oils ranging from setting in the sun to slow cooking.

Pros: Easy. Inexpensive. Cons: Oils go rancid faster, especially if you don’t remove all water content. Shelf Life: 3–6 months. Refrigerate to avoid botulism.


Vinegar Infusions

Image by RitaE from Pixabay


Use herbal vinegar infusions for anything from salad dressings to household cleaners. Shane and Simple offers some simple, vegan ways to infuse herbs into kinds of vinegar such as red and white.

Pros: Easy and cheap. Cons: You can make infusions on-demand. Shelf Life: 3 months in cool storage or 8 months refrigerated.

Conclusion

Drying herbs is not the only option to preserve your excess. Sure, it’s the cheapest and easiest method with the longest shelf life, but each technique has costs and benefits. Try different ones and see what works best for you.

Save time if you have access to kitchen appliances, but be wary of sacrificing flavor and potency with your method of choice. Freezing is pretty straightforward, but some methods stand the test of time, like compound butter and salting. Finally, infuse your cooking oils and vinegar with herbs.

There are so many different preservation methods, and some we didn’t even mention. Armed with these techniques, you can reduce or even end food spoilage from the garden. Just be sure to compost what you can, and savor the flavors.

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