Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Preserving Herbs

This past spring, my husband built some raised beds to start a small garden. I planted mostly herbs with a few tomato and pepper plants (I tried to start small, this is my first gardening on my own). I love using fresh herbs so I planted as much as I possibly could. Now that fall is upon us, I need to preserve some of the herbs for the winter. We had our first small frost last week so I was busy preparing all my herbs before it hit.

Herbs from left to right: Basil, Oregano, Parsley, and Rosemary

To prepare herbs for drying, line cookie sheet with parchment paper, wash and dry the herbs, and spread the herbs in an even layer on a cookie sheet. Store in a dry place for ample drying time. I placed mine in a dry corner in the kitchen that is close to a heat vent and sunny window.  You can also dry herbs by tying together in a bundle and hanging them in a dry place.

Dried Oregano

I also made some lovely basil pesto and froze tablespoon amounts in ice cube. Once the cubes of pesto are frozen, pop them out and place them in a Ziploc bag. These are great to add to a sauce for an extra pop of flavor.

I got a little messy with the pesto...

Here's a run-down of what I did with each herb:

Using a strong pair of kitchen shears, harvest herbs from the garden. Cut stems at the base of the plant or as close as possible.

Carefully wash and dry herbs (a salad spinner works great for this). Lay out on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Oregano: Remove oregano leaves from stem. Spread out on a cookie sheet to dry. 
Basil: Basil is a soft herb and is hard to dry so I opted for keeping it as fresh as possible. Use basil to make pesto and freeze in ice cube trays. Or freeze chopped basil leaves in olive oil. Once the cubes are frozen, remove and put in freezer safe containers or bags.
Parsley: Remove leaves from stem and finely chop the leaves. Spread in an even layer on a lined cookie sheet. You can also freeze parsley in olive oil as you do with basil.
Rosemary: Lay the stems out to dry. Once dry, pluck the leaves off of the stem.

Store all dried herbs in Ziploc baggies or spice containers or jars.

I also have some potted herbs that I plan to keep indoor this winter. This way I can use fresh herbs all year around!

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