Picking and using fresh herbs straight from your polytunnel is one of the joys of the gardening year. During the summer, if you have planned, sown and tended your garden well, you could be enjoying the flavours of a wide range of different fresh herbs. Often, the problem will not be too few herbs but too many. You may wonder what to do with fresh herbs if you find you have picked too much in one go. The good news is that it is relatively easy to preserve fresh herbs for later use.
Preserving Fresh Herbs Short Term
Kept in an airtight container in your fridge, fresh herbs will usually last for a few days. Should you wish to preserve the flavour of fresh herbs for a little longer then you could consider making a pesto. Fresh herbs such as basil for example, are ideal for making a versatile pesto which can be used on its own with pasta for a fresh, simple and delicious dish, or stirred into or spread onto a range of other recipes. Making pesto is easy. Usually, fresh herbs will simply be blended along with olive oil, garlic, seasoning (to taste) and sometimes pine nuts and a soft white cheese. Placed in a sterilised jar, pesto will keep for a week or so. (Put in a freezer, pesto can keep for 3-4 months)
Drying Fresh Herbs
Some herbs will keep their flavour when dried. Air drying works well for herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram and sage. Hang bunches of the herbs in a dry, warm place out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks until the leaves crumble. You can then crumble them up and place them in an airtight container and they will be fine for up to one year. If you live in a very humid environment where air drying is difficult then you could also consider using a dehydrator, or drying herbs in your oven, though this is not ideal as some of the flavour will be lost when using this method.
Freezing Fresh Herbs
Leafy herbs like basil, coriander and parsley will not respond well to drying. To preserve the fresh herb flavour of these herbs, the best option is to freeze them. There are various different methods which allow you to do so in a convenient way. One method involves chopping the herbs finely and packing them into an ice cube tray before topping off with a little water (or vegetable stock). You can then simply pop the cubes out of the tray and use them as required later in the year. Another method is to blend your herbs into a paste with a little oil or water (or make a full pesto) before you freeze them. Frozen cubes can be stored in an airtight container in a freezer for up to 3-4 months.
How do you like to preserve fresh herbs? What ways to you have for using up excess herbs? Let us know your thoughts and comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.