What is the Best Way to Preserve Herbs?
By: Jessie Keith
“I have lots of fresh herbs in my garden. What is the best way to dry and store them?” Question from Anne of Bloomington, Indiana
Answer: It’s an excellent question. Some herbs are best stored and used dry while others taste best when frozen. That is because some herbs do not retain their full flavor when dried. Here are some methods of preservation for different herbs. (Click here for an overview about how to grow different herbs.)
Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and parsley are all herbs that retail their best flavor when frozen. For basil, chives, cilantro, and parsley, I like to macerate them canola or olive oil and freeze them in containers. Labeled lidded ice cube trays are a great option (click here for a good lidded tray). That way, the herbs can be used cube by cube for cooking. It is also a great way to store garlic. Reusable freezer squeeze tubes are another option for later use from freezer to fridge. Fresh dill and parsley stems are easily stored in freezer bags and broken up in the bag after freezing for later use.
Stems or oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and bay leaves retain their flavors beautifully when dried. Dill can also be dried. Here are three great methods for drying them.
1. Hanging Herbs
Gather bundles of six stems for quick drying (larger bundles dry more slowly and may develop mold). Hang them upside down in a cool, dry, shaded spot (the sun will bleach leaves and reduce flavor). After a couple of days, the leaves should be crisp, dry, and ready for storage.
2. Dehydrating Herbs
Food dehydrators provide the fastest drying method for herbs, but not everyone owns one. If you do, space the stems apart on dehydrator racks and let them dry until crisp or leathery. The time needed depends on the machine and the herb drying. Check your herbs every couple of hours to assess dryness. Once dry, slide your fingers down each stem to separate the leaves. Then store them.
3. Oven Drying Herbs
Oven drying speeds the process without the need for a dehydrator. Preheat the oven to 140°F. Space the leafy stems apart on a pan lined with parchment paper and place the tray in the oven until leaves are crisp. It often takes an hour or two, but fleshier herbs may need more time.
Store dried herbs in a cool, dark place in labeled tins or glass jars. I like to add tiny packets of silica desiccant for better long-term preservation.
I hope that this helps. Happy herb harvest and preservation!
Black Gold Horticulturist
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