Your herb garden has taken off. In fact, it’s taken on a life of its own: your plant pots and garden beds are overflowing with deliciously fragrant leaves.
And now you’re faced with a problem you never thought you’d have: what do you do with all this wonderful abundance?
We’re here to help you enjoy your bountiful, mouth-watering harvest all year round with a rundown of the tastiest ways to preserve your herbs.
How to preserve herbs from your eco organic garden.
Harvesting. If the herb plant is a perennial, harvest stalks at the base so that the roots are left intact for another productive season. If it’s an annual, you can pull it out at the roots. Employing a pair of pruning shears or kitchen scissors is the most convenient way to harvest plants or get rid of roots.
Hand your kids a pair of scissors and invite them into the garden with you for some productive outdoor play time where they can learn basic gardening techniques. Kids love using scissors… and they will be tremendously satisfied when they watch the family enjoying the preserved herbs they helped to harvest.
Cleaning. To prepare your herbs for many of the preserving methods below, you’ll need to clean your herbs gently to avoid damaging them, and dry them thoroughly. You can run them under a gentle stream of water or spray them with a mister, wipe the leaves with a soft, clean cloth, and dry them with a paper towel.
If you’re going to be chopping the herbs straight afterwards anyway, you don’t have to be as cautious during the cleaning process. The ol’ rinse, rub and shake will do the job.
Freezing is convenient. This method works well for leafy herbs like parsley and cilantro. Chop herbs, dish them into ice cube trays, and fill the trays up with water or broth.
Create aromatic oil infusions. Warm some high-quality oil – olive oil works wonderfully – on the stove until it’s lukewarm. Pour into bottles and press in several sprigs of herbs. Leave for a few weeks to mature before enjoying.
Make some fancy fragrant vinegar. Start by drying the herbs off a little – you can hang them for a couple of days or gently heat them in the oven for a few hours. Pop the herbs into bottles, pour your favorite vinegar over and leave for a few weeks so flavors can develop.
Mix up some herbal butters. If you have a stand mixer, you can use it to combine butter with your choice of herbs. You can easily mix by hand, too: finely chop the herbs and then fold them into room-temperature butter. Herbal butters can be stored in the freezer. Enjoy with hot, homemade bread!
Stock up on pesto. Combine garlic, herbs, nuts and oil for this delicious savory favorite. You can use a pestle and mortar, or your blender. Pesto can be frozen for later use.
Air drying is simple. Remove leaves from the lower portions of the stem, and tie stems together – don’t crowds the bunches or they won’t dry properly. Hang herbs in a warm, well-ventilated spot for one to three weeks. You’ll know your herbs are thoroughly dried when you can crumble the leaves between your fingers. Gently remove the leaves, and crush them or store them whole in labeled bottles.
Oven-dry in humid climates. We love the air-drying method. It’s eco friendly (it doesn’t use energy like the oven method), plus the hanging bunches of herbs look gorgeously nostalgic and fill the room with fragrance. However, in a humid environment, hanging herbs may turn moldy instead of drying out. If you live where the climate is damp, you can lay your herbs on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and dry them out in the oven. Switch up the heat to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and prop the door open an inch or so. Check on the herbs; they’ll take between one and four hours to dry. When the leaves are crumbly, crush them or leave them whole, and store them in labelled bottles and jars.
Enjoy the incredible harvest all your sustainable gardening work has produced for you. You’ve earned it.
And remember, you can keep your herb garden going during the chilly winter months, or revel in a bountiful harvest even if you don’t have an outdoor spot. Get hold of some garden pots and trays like our biodegradable peat pots and seedling trays, and start up a thriving herb garden on your window sill or balcony.
Written by Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.