Looking for ways to preserve herbs during the height of their growing season? A way to capture the intense flavor that only fresh herbs straight from the garden can boast? These 13 unique ways to preserve fresh herbs for long-term use will allow you to access the taste of fresh herbs year-round.
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Anyone who has ever grown their own herbs will quickly acknowledge their intensity of flavors are like no other. During the height of growing season here in Zone 5b, preserving fresh herbs is on the top of our to-do list before frost hits. Finding easy ways to preserve and store fresh herbs for long-term use has been on our radar for almost 16 years, giving us access to a taste of summer all year long.
FAVORITE WAYS TO PRESERVE FRESH HERBS
There are many ways to preserve the flavorful herbal bounty before they are hit with a killing frost. Some methods in our experience work far better than others, but all work in their own way. Choosing which method is right for you would largely depend on where & how you intend to use the herbs.
In no particular order, these 13 ways to preserve fresh herbs will make all that flavor available when needed.
DRYING & DEHYDRATING
Drying & dehydrating fresh herbs is probably one of the most common methods of preserving those fresh herbs. These methods may be the easiest ways to preserve and store and use your harvest. There are several methods you can use to dry your herbs for long-term storage with little loss of flavor or quality.
AIR DRYING METHOD – The air drying method works well if you have an area with good airflow that you can hang bundles of fresh herbs undisturbed for a length of time. This is a method that is preferred here at IMSL for large harvests such as our yearly basil & oregano harvests as the herbs retain their potency & flavor.
Be sure to give Beautiful Basil! How To Dry & Store Your Yield a look for full instructions on how to hang those herbs for drying.
For smaller harvest yields, to air dry them simply place them on a cooling rack, place in a dry vase or sieve to dry. The harvest below dried within 3-4 days.
NOTE: Some recommend using an alternative method for drying herbs with a high moisture content such as basil, chives, and mint. However, if you have an area with good airflow that can remain undisturbed for an extended time, this method has worked extremely well for us with no issue.
OVEN DRYING METHOD – Don’t have a large crop or space needed to air dry your harvest? Consider the oven drying method. This simple method is great for those small harvests when time is an issue and you want them dried like NOW!
To oven-dry, simply place your leaves or seeds on a cookie sheet and place in the oven set at a low temp, less than 180 F, for 2-4 hours. The potency & flavor may be reduced with this method as they slightly cook. Thus, you may need to use more in your cooking for the same flavor results.
With both these methods, to test their dryness, they should crumble easily when squeezed or crushed. To retain as much flavor as possible, keep the leaves whole when storing them. Store in an airtight container, away from heat and in a dark area until ready to use.
DEHYDRATING – Dehydrating your fresh herbs is another way to easily dry them. Especially if you live in an area with high humidity levels and air-drying is not an option. By using a dehydrator, your herbs will be dry within 1-4 hours.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, to dehydrate your herbs simply follow their instructions below.
“Dehydrator drying is a fast and easy way to dry high quality herbs because temperature and air circulation can be controlled. Pre-heat dehydrator with the thermostat set to 95°F to 115°F. In areas with higher humidity, temperatures as high as 125°F may be needed. After rinsing under cool, running water and shaking to remove excess moisture, place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times may vary from 1 to 4 hours. Check periodically. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent. Check your dehydrator instruction booklet for specific details”.National Center For Home Food Preservation
PRESERVE IN SALT
This old fashioned method of preserving herbs may be one of the easiest ways to have access to fresh from the garden herbs for months. The method couldn’t be more simple. Check out this simple tutorial shared by Gabriela over at the Bossy Kitchen, How To Preserve Herbs In Salt For Winter use or follow her steps below.
- Remove the clean & dry leaves from the stems.
- In a clean glass jar add a layer of salt on the bottom of the jar. Gabriela recommends using sea salt, kosher salt, or Real Salt (our favorite). Canning salt may also be used.
- Layer the herbs on top of the salt and then add another layer of salt. Alternating herb and salt layers until the jar is full.
- Refrigerate. The following day remove the jar. The volume will have decreased to about 1/2. Repeat and refill the jar.
- Store in a cool dark place such as a cool basement, root cellar, or refrigerator.
Gabriela recommends keeping the herb leaves whole and not chopping the herbs to reduce the amount of salt consumed when using them. To use herbs packed in salt, be sure to remove the herb leaves and rinse prior to use to reduce that salt content. She also recommends that you are weary when cooking and taste before adding any additional salt as the herbs obviously will have retained a certain level of saltiness.
INFUSE IN VINEGAR
Preserve and use those herbs by infusing vinegar! This method works amazing with chives & chive blossoms. I love this vinegar when making our homemade italian dressing (post coming on how we make our own!). There is no limit as to the herbs you can use in this method. Think parsley, sage, fennel, and tarragon to make amazing infusions!
Stephanie Rose over at Garden Therapy has a wonderful tutorial, Herb Infused Vinegar, showing how easy it is to make your own infusions along with some wonderful ideas on how to use them!
Who knew? Fermenting herbs to use can be done! Daniel over at Insane In The Brine has a great way to create lacto-fermented herbs. Be sure to check out this simple method if you are searching for additional ways to add ferments into your diet.
CREATE AN OXYMEL
OK, you may be thinking what the heck is an Oxymel? An oxymel is actually a remedy that is made using equal parts of acid (vinegar) and honey. This remedy is wonderful to make when you need to administer herbs that are not so pleasant to take.
You may have heard of “fire cider” an amazing home remedy used to prevent viruses and help support the immune system. This “cider” is made with a unique combination of ingredients; onions, garlic, jalapenos, apple cider vinegar, & honey to name a few. “Fire cider” is an example of an oxymel and one that we make and sell here on the hill.
You may find that the “taste” is improved after creating the oxymel, what doesn’t improve with a little nurturing honey? Some ways to use your oxymels include adding some to a seltzer on a hot day, or topping pancakes or waffles, or use instead of dressing on your salads.
Making a pesto, is traditionally made by combining crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Sardo, all blended with olive oil, can be made using more than just basil leaves.
Pesto can be made using just about any tender “green” you may have on hand. Parsley, carrot tops, swiss chard, kale are all good options when making pesto. Our friends over at the Cheerful Kitchen have rounded up 21 different and unique recipes for you to enjoy.
When making pesto to preserve your fresh herbs, simply follow your favorite recipe, freeze in your desired amounts and store long-term in the freezer for some amazing meals throughout the year!
PRESERVE FRESH HERBS IN HONEY
This sweet method of preserving herbs, think lavender, mint, lemon balm, and sage, is a favorite method. We recommend sourcing your honey locally and using only raw, unprocessed honey as it’s been shown to contain all the beneficial nutrients needed.
To infuse your honey, simply take clean, dry herbal leaves (they can be whole, crushed, or chopped) and cover with honey. Store in a dry, dark space and allow the honey to infuse for at least 6 weeks.
Suggested uses? Use in cooking to sweeten and spice up your recipes. Add to a cocktail to lightly sweeten & flavor it…think lavender. What about making a honey herbed butter (sage) to glaze meats? Add a lemon balm infused honey to a nurturing tea to ease cold & flu symptoms or to simply enjoy.
MAKE A PASTE
Not into pesto? Simply make a paste of the herbs and freeze into predetermined amounts you will need. Rebecca over at It’s Not Easy Eating Green has a wonderful tutorial on how to make your own fresh herb pastes.
FREEZE IN COCONUT OIL
Create little nuggets of herbal freshness by simply removing the leaves from your cleaned & dry herbs and place in an ice cube tray. Melt the coconut oil, our preferred brand is here, over low heat. Cover the herbs in the ice cube tray with the oil and freeze. Remove the cubes from the tray and store in your preferred container in the freezer.
FREEZE IN BONE BROTH
What better way to use your preferred herbs to your savory dishes or just to enjoy in a mug on a cold morning than to freeze your fresh herbs in bone broth! How we make our own bone broth is coming soon to the blog!! Freeze in the same manner as stated above and enjoy!
FREEZE IN WATER
When you don’t want the added flavor or fat of oils, simply following the instructions for freezing in ice cube trays or larger portion sizes above and simply cover with water and freeze. These water-herb cubes can be added to soups, stews, and many other dishes or teas.
FREEZE IN OLIVE OIL
Freezing in extra virgin olive oil is an easy one. Freeze as stated above and store in an air-tight container for use in your freezer.
Looking to harness the medicinal qualities of fresh herbs and roots? Make an extraction. An extraction is simply when a substance is made by extracting from raw material, such as herbs, using a solvent, such as alcohol or water. Our friends over at Herb Pharm describe it best in their article “What Is An Herbal Extraction”.
Extracts are typically categorized by what solvent is used for the extraction process. Tinctures, for example, most commonly use alcohol or glycerin for the extraction process. Be sure to read our article on tinctures with “How To Prepare For Cold & Flu Season With Elderberry Tincture”, which details the simple method of extraction by making a tincture.
BONUS! ROOTING & GROWING HERBS INDOORS
For those of us who have a limited growing season, nothing could be better than knowing you will have access to your most loved herbs all year long! For herbs such as Rosemary, root cuttings in water and then replant in a pot on a sunny windowsill to use year-round!
TIP: When rooting, be sure to strip the “leaves” off the bottom of the stem and don’t allow the water line to cover any of the lower leaves while rooting.
Hopefully, you will find these methods of preserving your fresh herbs for long-term storage & use helpful. Be sure to join the conversation below and let us know of your favorite ways to preserve those fresh herbs!
Love, Light, & Laughter ~
This post was featured at Centerpiece Wednesdays!