When it comes to growing your own herbs, you’ll probably realise you’re accumulating much more than you need. So knowing how to store your fresh herbs for a long time is essential for avoiding waste.
There’s a few different options available to you when you’re wanting to do this. But bear in mind that there’s no method that will fully retain the flavour of fresh herbs so I’d always advise that you use them straight away where you can. But if you still want to learn how to store them for the long term, keep reading.
I’ve put together a few of my favourite methods to keep your home grown fresh herbs stored and ready to go for a long time to come. Let’s get into them.
Freezing Herbs In Ice Cube Trays
This method is one of my preferred as it’s simple and can be altered in various ways to help preserve the herbs flavour better. It also puts your herbs into nicely portioned cubes so you can pop out as many as you need at the time.
So, how do you freeze herbs in ice cube trays? To freeze herbs in ice cube trays you simply need to finely chop up your herbs and place them in a ice cube tray then fill it with water. Now pop it in the freezer and you’re done. However, using water will have the worst affect on the taste. Use oil, preferably olive oil, as a replacement to help retain the most flavour.
If you’ve got a larger amount of herbs then you can pop them into a food processor, add a little oil, then blend them. Once you’ve done that, pour the mixture into the ice cube tray and put it into the freezer.
Once you’ve put them in the freezer, you can store your herbs for up to 12 months. But I’ve usually found that leaving them any longer than 2 weeks will affect their flavour quite a bit.
When you get around to using your frozen herbs, you don’t need to let them fully defrost. I tend to just place them directly in to soups, stews etc…
If you’ve gone for the oil option, they make a great base for frying and will really pack some flavour into your food.
Freshen Up Your Drinks
You can pop these frozen herb ice cubes straight into a drink of your choice to add a little freshness to it. It will be a bit of a wow factor for guests at parties.
Storing Herbs In Jars Of Water
The second method is storing your herbs in a jar of water, much like hydroponic growing kits. This is another pretty simple method that will keep your herbs fresh for a few weeks. For this method, ideally you need a salad spinner to get the best results but you can still do it without one.
So, how do you store herbs in jars of water? For this you’re going to need a mason jar. First, fill it with about an inch of water. Now cut off the roots of your herbs and place them in the jar. That’s it. It’s similar to how you’d keep a bouquet of flowers fresh longer.
Most herbs such as cilantro or parsley will require covering with a bag to help keep them fresh longer. But if you’re planning on storing basil then leave it open but close to a window so it can get some natural light.
This method can be done without the water, but doing it that way will require a lid for your jar. Ideally you want to store it in the fridge and don’t pack them too tight.
If you’re doing this method without the water, make sure the jars are COMPLETELY dried out beforehand or they will not last as long. Also, an air tight seal on the lid will help preserve your herbs for longer.
Vacuum/Heat Sealing Your Herbs
Vacuum sealing herbs is one of the best ways to preserve the taste and freshness. It’s not the most environmentally friendly option out there though. So, how do you vacuum/heat seal herbs?
To seal your herbs you will need a heat sealer (or vacuum sealer), oil (unless you’re using dried herbs) and portion sized bags that work with your sealer.
First of all, you need to wash your herbs. Ensure that you get all of the soil off from them, then thoroughly pat them dry. You can air dry them if you want to, but it will take much longer to fully dry them out. Washing them helps prevent decay by removing any harmful bacteria that will cause your herbs to rot. That’s why rinsed herbs last much longer than unrinsed herbs.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to pack them into the bags. For this step it’s essential that you’re using portion sized bags. Otherwise you’ll end up having to reseal them when you use some of your herbs, this just reduces their longevity and produces much more waste. You’ll also need some oil for this step, I tend to stick with extra virgin olive oil for this storage method.
So, packing the herbs. Gently push them into your sealer bags until it’s about 3/4 full, don’t try and force them in, you don’t want to damage the herbs. Once they’re nice and snug in the bag, begin pouring in your oil of choice. Just ensure that you DO NOT fill more than 3/4 of the bag, it can affect the sealing process.
Finally, seal your bag and you’re good to go. You can store vacuum sealed herbs anywhere, but store them in the freezer if you want to keep them around for a long time to come.
DO NOT OVERFILL
Overfilling your sealer bags with oil can affect the sealing process. In the worst cases it’s been known to ruin your vacuum/heat sealer.
Drying herb is an ideal method for long term storage, it’s also a very simple method that you can do easily. It’s one of the most popular ways of storing herbs as it concentrates the flavour to really have an impact on your meals. Often you’ll find recipes recommending that you use dried herbs over fresh as the flavour impact is greater.
Another bonus to drying is that there’s a few ways you can do it:
Microwave Dried (Fastest drying method)
This is the quickest method, but is probably the worst for flavour of your herbs. So I’d only recommend this method if you’re short on time.
To dry your herbs in the microwave you simply need to place them on a sheet of kitchen roll then place 2 more on top. Once you’ve done that, microwave them on the lowest setting for around 1 minute. Ensure you keep your eye on them all the time as it only takes a few seconds too long for them to burn. After the minute has passed, take your herbs out, move them around, then check how much they’ve dried. If they still seem a little moist, they need a little longer. Put them in for 20 second intervals until you think they’re fully dried.
Oven drying your herbs is the 2nd quickest method. It will take around 4 hours until they’re crisp and completely dry.
For this method, you want to set your oven to the lowest setting possible and leave the door slightly open. Spread the herbs evenly on a tray then place them in the oven. Sit down, relax, for 4 hours and voila, dried herbs.
If you’re not too keen on the idea of leaving your oven on for 4 hours then you can either follow one of my other methods OR you can invest in a dehydrator like this one on Amazon. These are pretty safe to leave unattended, so they’re more ideal if you’ve got young children or pets hanging around your home.
If you’ve got small children in your home, I’d recommend air drying them unless you can ensure that you DO NOT leave the oven unattended.
When opting to air dry your herbs, you need to consider these 3 different things that will affect the period of time it takes to fully dry out your herbs.
Airflow needs to be considered as you don’t want them drying in stale air. The air needs to be circulating and kept fresh, this will help with the speed of drying.
Warmth is important for the drying rate. However, this doesn’t mean keep it outside in the sun. Somewhere like your airing cupboard will be fine, or anywhere in your home that’s not too cold.
Humidity is perhaps the most important of the 3. If the environment is too humid, your herbs will never dry out completely. Also, a humid environment gives the opportunity for your herbs to begin to decay. Air conditioning units take moisture out the air, so if you can set it to a warm temperature, place them near that to really speed up the drying process.