It’s the end of the season so I was cleaning up my garden and gathering my herbs before the frost got to them. What to do with all these herbs? Preserve them of course!
English: Bottle of Majoram spice. By uploader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I grow many herbs in my garden. At the end of the season I go through my kitchen cupboards and replace any old herbs with fresh. I use them through the winter months, there is nothing like fresh herbs from your garden to add flavor to your cooking. So how do I keep them through the winter? There are a few ways to preserve your herbs through the winter. My favorite way is to dry them! It is the easiest method and they are oh so tasty!
I grow many herbs, but among the ones I use for dried storage are, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, French Tarragon, Marjoram, Mint, and this year I grew some Stevia for the first time. To dry these herbs is very easy, just cut the plant close to the base of the stem gathering a nice handful keeping the stems together.
Rinse the herbs in cold water to clean off any dirt and or insects that might be on them. Lay the bundles of herbs on a paper towel to blot off the excess water (you may want to leave them on the counter for an hour or two just to get the water off them). Next tie a string around the stems keeping them in a small bunch (a rubber band will work well also), then hang them in a dry area where they get good air flow. Now you just wait! I like to hang my herbs right in my kitchen from the ceiling, it makes the kitchen smell nice and I can keep an eye on them as well. In a few weeks your herbs should be completely dry and the leaves will crumble easily. Make sure they are completely dry before storing them.
If you are worried about dust or other contaminates getting on your herbs, place them in a paper bag and tie the bag shut and hang the entire bag, they will dry just as well this way.
If you are impatient you can spread them out on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven on a very low temperature (140° F) for a few hours. A dehydrator also works well. I have even used a microwave (but this method is not the best).
Once you have your herbs dried completely, simply remove the leaves from the stems, discard the stems and place the dried leaves in a jar. Keep the dried herbs in your kitchen herb cupboard for use until next growing season then you just start the process over again. This way you will have a continuous supply of fresh herbs to cook with.
There are some herbs that just do not dry well such as Chives, and Parsley. These herbs are much better when they are fresh. If you want to keep some on hand after the growing season you can freeze them, this will also work for all other herbs. Simply gather your herbs and rinse in cold water and allow to drain on paper towels for several hours to eliminate excess moisture. Chop or mince your herbs and place in a container and freeze. You can also place a smaller amount in an ice cube tray with a little water and freeze this way. Once the cubes are frozen, simply remove from the tray and place in a sealed bag and keep them in the freezer, when you need some fresh herbs take a cube or two and toss it in with your food to add a wonderful flavor (this method is especially useful for soups and stews)!
So there you have it, now go gather those herbs before the winter months set in so you can have a fresh supply until next growing season.