How to Preserve and Store Your Homegrown Herbs

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Herb garden

Fresh herbs can transform mealtimes from the ordinary to the sublime! But while evergreen herbs such as rosemary may be picked throughout winter in many areas, others will need to be cut and stored before the end of the growing season if we’re to enjoy their flavors during the colder months. Read on to find out about some clever but simple ways to do just that.

Air Drying

Drying is the easiest way to preserve herbs. Gather stems into small, loose bunches. Secure the ends together with an elastic band or twine then hang upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place that’s out of direct sunlight. Herbs with smaller leaves, such as thyme, can be laid out on newspaper or on a rack to dry. For best results herbs should be fully dried within two to three days.

Drying herbs

Microwave Drying

A speedier alternative to air drying is to use a microwave. This method is also useful in damp climates where air drying can prove difficult unless you have a dehydrator. Spread individual leaves out onto paper towel then cover with another layer of paper towel. Place into the microwave for one to three minutes, checking the leaves every 20 seconds and rearranging as necessary to ensure even drying. Allow to cool before storing. Herbs are dry when they are crunchy to the touch.

Storing Dried Herbs

Store dried leaves whole to retain their flavor. Place them into airtight jars, labelled with the name of the herb and the date. Store them in a cool, dry place where they should keep for up to a year.

Freezing Herbs

Fleshy herbs such as basil, parsley, dill and cilantro lend themselves to freezing. Blanch them in boiling water for a couple of seconds before plunging into a bowl of ice-cold water to stop the leaves from cooking further. Pat dry between dish towels then pack the vibrant-green leaves into labelled freezer bags.

Herbs in ice cube tray

Herb Ice Cubes

Ice cube trays offer a convenient way to add recipe-ready portions of frozen herbs at cooking time. To freeze, add chopped herbs to the trays so that each cube is about half full. Top up with water then freeze as normal. This is also a great way to preserve edible flowers such as borage for adding to drinks. Once the cubes are frozen they can be popped out into a freezer bag to save on space.

Frozen Blends

You can also blend herbs with oil then pour the mixture into ice cube trays to freeze in the same way. This method also works really well for basic pestos – just make up your pesto, pour into the ice cube trays, freeze, then pop out and pack into freezer bags ready to add to your favorite recipes.

Herb butter

Herb Butter

A variation on oil-herb mixtures is to make a herb butter. Leave a pat of butter at room temperature to soften up. Chop up your favorite leafy herbs – I love using tarragon! – then mash into the butter using the back of a fork. Pack the butter up into greaseproof paper and twist the ends closed. Herb butter can be kept in the fridge for two weeks or frozen for up to six months.

Vinegars and Oils

Herbs in oils and butters can exclude oxygen, which can increase the risk of botulism disease. To avoid this, be sure to refrigerate them and use within two weeks, unless you're freezing them. An alternative is to lower the pH to below 4.6 by soaking finely shredded herbs in vinegar, then mixing in the oil to make salad dressings, which will last longer.

These ideas offer just a flavor of what you can do to lock in summer freshness to enjoy year round. Of course, there are lots of other methods such as blanching, preserving in sugar, and even herbal wines. If you’ve got a favorite method for storing herbs please share it in the comments section below.

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Comments

 
"I clicked on the link to find out more about drying herbs in mesh laundry bags and you have nothing on the page about it!"
Sandy on Friday 15 July 2016
"Apologies for that Sandy. Hopefully some of these other ideas for storing herbs will be useful."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 18 July 2016
"I freeze most of mine, except basil, it don’t like a freezer Mint is fine, I just use the leaves, no stalks, but this year hasn’t been a good year for me with it, it just seems to have gone to seed and died back I end up but herbs in the supermarket during the winter, they don’t sell herbs growing in pots in the winter, just the cut stuff Chillis are great in a freezer, just freeze them whole, use as you need them I could do with some advice with chillis though, mine flower, but the flowers fall off and no fruit on them this year, they have been fed and wateeed, but that’s it, nothing, they look healthy"
Derrick on Monday 16 September 2019
"Hi Derrick. This could be due to insufficient pollination or exceptionally high heat. Have a read of our 'Top 3 Reasons Why Your Tomatoes Are Not Setting Fruit' article (search the article title in the search field right at the top of this page), much of which will also apply to chillis. Hopefully next year will bring better luck."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 17 September 2019
"Thanks Ben for your reply I haven’t seen any bees, but lots of flies, but I have carnivorous plants and I think they eat the flies, I don’t know if they pollinate the chilli flowers, My chilli plants are kept indoors, but they do go outside for a breath of fresh air, but come in over night It has been an exceptionally hot summer here in the UK though this year Do chilli plants die back in the winter or are they dormant ?"
Derrick on Tuesday 17 September 2019
"All my mint seems to have died back, just got woody twigs left now, the weather has been pretty mild so I don’t know why Any ideas ? I freeze my rosemary, , can’t freeze basil, it just goes black, flat leaf parsley is fine either dried or frozen, never tried mixing it with butter and freezing it, so it’s worth a try Now it’s getting nearer to winter I expect most of my herbs to dy now, just hope they come back in the spring"
Derrick on Sunday 13 October 2019

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