We are often asked about different ways in which herb plants can be preserved. This is a great question, as fresh herbs are wonderful to use and have the most powerful flavours, but different methods of preserving them can make them last a lot longer and can be used in a variety of different ways.
The main advantage of preserving your herbs is that very often at the height of growing season, there is just too much to use all at once! The herb garden is so wonderfully full of flavour, your herb plants will be producing foliage so quickly and there will be an abundance of seasoning that you can use. However, it's important to consider that this level of abundance is transitory with the changing seasons.
However, you can harvest your herbs at the height of their growing season, use your fresh produce for what you need at that point and then use different preservation methods to make the rest of your harvest last for months afterwards.
So what are the best ways of preserving herbs?
It is very important to preserve your herbs in a way that does not negatively affect the plant and so maintains the amazing flavour that you would like to add to your food or drink. It is also good to remember that it is often down to what your preferred method is, and what you plan to use the herbs for later down the line.
Here are a few methods of preserving herbs and some tips for getting the most out of your herbs:
Drying your herbs
This is perhaps the most well known of the methods of preserving herbs, as we all have a few jars of dried herbs in the kitchen cupboard just in case!
Pretty much all herbs can be dried but some need a little more preparation, due to water content and predisposition to mould, so it is good to do a little research. Good herbs to start off with include Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Winter Savory to name a few.
We grow so many unusual varieties here at Urban Herbs and there are many different varieties of Thyme that you can dry to preserve and use at a later stage. Varieties such as Lemon Curd Thyme are so sweet and the aroma of citrus as you dry this variety will make your kitchen smell amazing. BBQ Rosemary is another beautiful variety with a distinctive smoky flavour that smells so strongly as you dry it.
There are quite a few drying methods to chose from, from more traditional air drying to dehydrating and using your oven or even microwave. All of these drying methods then allow for you to store your dried herbs either whole or crumbled in clean glass or plastic containers to use in your cooking!
A top tip to reduce your energy bill when drying herbs is to place cut herbs onto a baking tray in the middle of an oven after you have finished cooking a meal and with the oven switched off, allow the residual heat to dry your herb plants. When they are fully dry, you can crumble them into an air tight container and use them at your leisure.
Freezing your herbs
Freezing your herbs is another great way of preserving them, and can be done in a couple of different ways to be sure to have herby ingredients ready to use in your freezer.
A great way of freezing herbs for use in your cooking is to 'flash freeze' herbs to then keep in containers in your freezer for whenever you need them. This method works best for thinner herbs such as Chives, Lemongrass and Tarragon.
Another increasingly popular method is freezing methods in ice cubes, which can be used in cooking, as well as in cocktails and to flavour water. This method can be done with any herb and as long as the ice encases the herb leaf completely and is used frozen (thawing wilts the leaves), this is a great way to use your herbs all year round.
Infusing oils with your herbs is a delicious way to make use of the incredible flavours herbs lend to our cooking.
By using a couple of handfuls of strong herbs such as Rosemary or Oregano with olive oil or an oil of your choice, you can create a beautifully scented infusion that should be usable for up to a year.
We hope that this has given you some inspiration for how you would like to preserve your herbs to use all year round and the different ways you can use them in your food and drink!
We really hope that you enjoyed this brief guide to preserving your herb plants and stretching the abundance of summer into the colder months of the year. With the increasing cost of food in general and seasonings in particular, this is a really fun activity that can reduce the cost of your weekly shopping bill slightly throughout the colder months of the year.