Many herbs grow quickly and in abundance. Often (at least in my garden), there are far too many aromatic & flavorful herb leaves harvested to consume fresh. To make use of as much of the edible growth as possible, you need to know how to preserve herbs for later use. In this post, we will discuss 4 different ways you can use to preserve your herb harvest. 

How to Preserve Herbs

Herbs are easy to grow and have many uses. They can be used to cook with, eat raw, add fragrance, add soothing properties to skincare products, and for medicinal purposes. You can use herbs fresh, dried, frozen, freeze-dried, or preserved in oil or vinegar depending on what you want to do with them.  Let’s discuss each of these herb preservation methods now. 

1. Dehydrating Herbs

Drying herbs is, in my opinion, the most striaghtforward way to preserve herbs. You can simply hang the leaves to dry or you can learn to use an oven or a dehydrator to speed up the process. 

Air Drying

Air-drying herbs is great because it requires no special equipment, but it takes longer than any of the other drying options. 

Steps to Air-Dry Herbs::
  • Cut the herbs on a long stem
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt
  • Tie the stems together with twine
  • Hang the bundle in an area out of direct sunlight. 
  • Wait 10-14 days

Oven Drying

If you don’t have a dehydrator, but you don’t have 10-14 days to wait, then try oven drying herbs! Keep in mind that herbs can potentially lose flavor as well as nutritional and medicinal strength this way.

Steps to Oven-Dry Herbs:
  • Cut the herbs and remove leaves from stems
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt
  • Remove all excess water from the rinsed leaves (or they may cook instead of drying)
  • Place leaves on a cookie sheet
  • “Bake” at 170° F for one hour

Dehydrator

If you have a dehydrator, then this herb drying method is the optimal choice. With a dehydrator, you can have dried herbs in 4-12 hours without losing as much flavor & medicinal/nutritional value. 

Steps to Dehydrate Herbs:
  • Cut the herbs and remove leaves from stems
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt
  • Remove excess water from the rinsed leaves
  • Add leaves in a single layer to dehydrator trays. 
  • Set the dehydrator to the recommended settings (usually about 95° for a few hours)

2. Freezing Herbs

Not all herbs freeze the same. Some herbs will lose color and texture when frozen (like basil and mint) while others retain their properties well (rosemary, thyme, and some leafy greens). 

Consider what dishes/drinks you plan to use these herbs for when deciding whether or not to freeze. If the color & texture aren’t highlighted in those recipes, then freeze any herb you like (I freeze basil for spaghetti sauce each year without issue). 

Herbs can be frozen in water, butter, oil, or without liquid.

Steps to Freeze Herbs with Liquid:

  • Gather the herbs and remove the leaves from the stems. 
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt. 
  • Chop the herbs (if desired) and place in ice cube trays
  • Cover the herbs in either water, melted butter, or oil.
  • Place in the freezer.
  • Once frozen, remove from tray and store the cubes in an airtight container in the fridge.

Steps to Freeze Herbs without Liquid:

  • Gather the herbs and remove the leaves from the stems. 
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt. 
  • Dry the leaves 
  • Chop the herbs (if desired) and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet
  • Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours or overnight
  • Remove the frozen herbs and store them in an airtight container

3. Freeze Drying Herbs

Freeze drying is not an economical option for everyone, but it does have some pretty great benefits if you can afford to invest in your own machine. This herb preservation method will provide you with herbs that can last up to 25 years in storage! Freeze-dried foods tend to keep their flavor and nutritional properties better when compared to dehydrating and freezing as well.

Steps to Freeze Dry Herbs:

  • Gather the herbs and remove the leaves from the stems. 
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt. 
  • Dry the leaves. 
  • Place the leaves in a single layer on a freeze dryer tray.
  • Adjust the settings according the directions on your freeze dryer 
  • Remove the freeze-dried herbs and store them in an airtight container. 

4. Infusing Herbs

Dried herbs can also be infused in oil or vinegar for adding additional flavor to dishes.

Steps to Infuse Herbs in Vinegar:

The best ratio is a ½ cup of dried herbs to 2 cups distilled white vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.

  • Gather the herbs and remove the leaves from the stems. 
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt. 
  • Dry & dehydrate or freeze-dry the leaves. 
  • Place the herbs in a jar or bottle
  • Heat the vinegar to almost boiling
  • Pour the hot vinegar over the herbs (make sure your container is safe for hot liquid).
  • Allow the vinegar to cool and refrigerated the infused vinegar for 1-2 weeks to fully infuse, then strain.

Steps to Infuse Herbs in Oil:

A 1:5 ratio of dried herbs to oil is recommended for infused oils. 

  • Gather the herbs and remove the leaves from the stems. 
  • Shake & rinse the leaves to remove bugs and dirt. 
  • Dry & dehydrate or freeze-dry the leaves. 
  • Place the herbs in a jar or bottle
  • Cover the herbs with your oil of choice. The herbs need to be completely submerged in oil.
  • Close and shake the jar
  • Sit the jar in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks (shake it once/day)
  • Once fully infused, strain the oil and store it for use.
  • Quick method- add herbs to and heat in a double boiler for about 3 hours over very low heat.

What is your favorite way to preserve herbs?


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