For those of you who grew herbs in your garden this year, you may be wondering what to do with them! What do you do with that much sage, after all? Before you throw your hands up and figure that herb season is over with the first frost, read these tips on how to harvest herbs, and clever ways to preserve them so you have fresh from the garden flavor all year long.
- Pick herbs in late morning for best flavor, on a sunny day.
- Do not let herbs go to flower before you pick. Pinch off the flowers as they appear until you are ready to harvest.
- Many, if not most herbs can be cut whenever you need them, and they regrow quickly. Exceptions to that include parsley and basil, both which tend to bolt to seed quickly after reaching maturity. These are the herbs you need to harvest on time. Harvest these in bunches.
- Yes, you should wash your herbs before you preserve them.
- Remember in milder winter areas, some herbs stay evergreen all winter long. These are best to clip as needed, and you don’t need to harvest large parts of the plant. These tend to be the hardier herbs… in my zone 7 garden, many Thymes, Sages and Rosemary survive quite well. Oregano, marjoram and lemon balm? Not so much!
How to Preserve Herbs
Drying herbs is pretty self explanatory, but the most space intensive way to preserve herbs. If you choose this route, you must have a warm, dry indoor area to hang the herbs. Hang them in small bunches, cover them to keep them clean, and when dry, strip the leaves off the branches and seal in bags or jars. Make sure they are crispy dry before you seal them up. You can also dry herbs in the microwave or a food dehydrator.
Freezing in Water
Freezing fresh herbs in ice cube trays is pure genius as in this idea from Ladies Health Magazine. Simply pop the ice cubes straight into the cooking pot. You can also simply place chopped herbs into a ziploc bag, squeeze out all the air, and freeze. Break off a piece when needed.
Freezing In Oil
Love this idea! If you cook dishes that are more savory and wouldn’t want to add water to, freezing your herbs in oil is the perfect solution. Use a good extra virgin olive oil and cover chopped herbs in the ice cube trays. Freeze overnight, then pop out of the trays and seal in plastic bags, Freeze until ready to use. Add to any dish that has an oil or savory base. This preservation method has the freshest taste to us.
In Salt or Sugar
To preserve herbs in sugar or salt, simply layer the fresh herbs with either in a sealable jar. You can use both the salt (or sugar) and the herbs for seasoning. Some herbs naturally make great herbal sugars… lavender, mint, rosemary, lemon balm. Others make terrific herbal salts, such as basil.
Take advantage of these easy ways to save your herbs for later use, and savor the smell in your kitchen as an added bonus. Does anything smell better in fall than fresh herbs and spices?
And if you didn’t grow herbs this year? Get on it people… no other plant combines purpose with pleasure quite so well.