Fall is here and the herbs in your Charlotte area garden are starting to get past their summer peak of lushness. In today’s blog post we are showing you a few easy ways to preserve fresh herbs from your garden. We’re also talking about one method commonly shown on personal blogs that may not be such a great idea after all. Read on for three great methods to enjoy your fresh herbs even during the colder seasons ahead.
Our herbs that we bought from Blackhawk Hardware’s Garden Center this spring have grown nicely and provided us with a steady stream of fresh flavor additions in salads, soups, vegetable sides, meat dishes and so much more. Alas, I’d hate to see them wilt and wasted as the weather turns and I am stoked to preserve our herbs by drying, distilling, or freezing them.
For drying your herbs you will probably want to turn to your oven or a food dehydrator here in the humid Carolinas. If you do decide to air dry your herbs, we recommend using low moisture ones like rosemary, marjoram or lavender.
Alternatively, your oven is a great tool to dry herbs. Wash and carefully pat your herbs dry. Place them on a cookie sheet and dry them with the oven door open at 180F for two to four hours. Your herbs are dry when the leaves crumble.
Distilling Herb Hydrosols
Making herbal waters (think rose water but with herbs) is a little more involved than drying herbs but the rewards are well worth it. Rosemary hydrosol is a wonderful tonic for hair and skin and peppermint hydrosol a cooling spritz that you may enjoy during hot flashes or fevers.
In this method you will essentially boil the herbs in water and then catching the infused steam as it condensates on the pot’s lid. It sounds more intimidating than it is and this recipe goes over the steps. I am excited to use a lot of rosemary clippings from our rosemary bush for it. Store your herb hydrosols in the fridge and use within a few months.
Freezing Herbs in Water
Grab your ice-cube trays and preserve your fresh herbs in the freezer! Wash and chop your herbs and fill them into ice-cube trays. Fill the molds with water, ensure all herbs are covered and place in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can transfer the herbal ice cubes into baggies.
We love having frozen herbs on hand and these herb ice cubes are super easy for adding flavor to soups and stews all winter long. Try creating herb mixes like Italian or Herbs de Provence before you freeze them to have an easy base for salad dressing. Just add an herb ice cube to oil, vinegar and your preferred spices for a taste of summer with your cool weather lettuce and greens.
Alternatively you can use olive oil and immediately freeze the oil and herb cubes. Pat your herbs dry well before adding the oil.
Storing Herbs in Oil
This is a method you’ll sometimes see on social media or personal blogs but here is why you shouldn’t store herbs in oil. Herbs and vegetables stored in oil should be kept in the refrigerator and used within four days to avoid the risk of toxic botulism bacteria formation. Deep freezing them like we described in the above method is deemed safe. Read more about botulism and herbs stored in oil in this advisory from Oregon State University.