Freezing and Drying Herbs

For gardeners in Zone 5, when nights are getting colder it’s time to think about preserving your herb harvest. If you have herbs in your garden that you’d like to use in the winter months, now is the time to think about drying or freezing them to enjoy later.

There are some herbs that are best preserved by freezing, while other are best dried…but before you decide which you’re going to try first, think about how you’ll be using the herbs and what kind of herbs they are.

I recommend this short video which highlights “how to tips” on when to pick your herbs, how best to snip them, best way to preserve by herb type, plus easy freezing and drying techniques.

Herbs such as mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, lavender, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and marjoram are most suitable for longer cooking times. This means that they’re also useful in the dried form and are good candidates for drying.

The best herbs to freeze are usually cilantro, basil, parsley, dill, tarragon, lovage, chervil, and chives… things that are used raw or added at the end of cooking time. Some can work well by either method such as mint.

Freezing Herbs Using the Ice Cube Method…8 Easy Steps:
1.) Harvest the herb leaves, only choose the healthy ones.
2.) Wash, pick the leaves off the stalk, and then use a salad spinner to spin out most of the water.
3.) Pat dry with paper towels.
4.) Stuff the herbs into ice cube trays.
5.) Fill the tray with water. Using your fingers, push the leaves down into the water as much as possible as they tend to want to float.
6.) Place the ice cube tray in the freezer.
7.) Once the ice cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and transfer to zip-lock style plastic bags for storage.
8.) Refreeze the cubes. They are now ready for use! Simply add the whole ice cube into your dish during cooking. Great for use in soups, stews, and sauces!

Note: You can also do the same method using olive oil or stock in lieu of water …

We love to throw the “herbsicles” into many dishes…the small amount of liquid quickly boils down and leaves behind the herbs. The flavor is a bit less than fresh herbs, but definitely stronger than dried herbs. Make a few trays of herbed ice cubes and you have fresh herbs all winter long!

Herb Drying Tips:

* Store indoors out of sunlight…Pantries work well (a warm, dry, fairly dark area)

* Pick over the herbs and remove any blackened leaves and stems.

* Take some kitchen twine or rubberbands and suspend the bouquet of herbs.

* Make sure it’s high enough to be out of pet’s reach.
Drying Oregano
* In a few days you should have a bunch of fragrant, dry herbs.

* Check for bugs, then cut off the twine and pick off the leaves.

* Store them in a tightly covered, labeled jar for future use.

* Dry herbs add a lot of flavor to slow-cooked foods, when added at the beginning of cooking.

* Drying your own herbs means less waste, and less money spent on store-bought dried herbs.

I’ve successfully used the above method to dry herbs at home. I don’t have a dehydrator, but have heard they are wonderful for drying herbs. I will try that soon and let you know how it goes!