A guide to preserving herbs
Don’t let those end of season herbs go to waste. Here are some ways to preserve herbs for the winter months.
To get the best of the flavour and aroma, it’s important to get the timing of the harvest right:
• if you are harvesting herbs for their foliage, do it after flower buds appear but before they flower;
• herbs for seeds need to be harvested when the seed pods change colour but before they open;
• herb flowers are best harvested just before full bloom;
• roots like chicory should be harvested after foliage has died off;
• the best time to harvest is early morning, once dew has dried but while it is still relatively cool.
The most flavourful way to use herbs is fresh, but you can easily preserve them.
1. Freeze them
Rinse in cold water, shake off excess, chop coarsely, place a set amount (eg, 1 tsp) in an ice cube tray, then freeze. Once frozen, label with the name of the herb and the amount per cube, then store in an air tight container or resealable plastic bag.
2. Dry them using a dehydrator
This is the easiest method – just follow the instructions that come with your dehydrator.
3. Dry them using air
Don’t wash herbs you want to dry unless they really need it. If you do need to wash them, dry them carefully on a flat surface covered in paper towels. Once dry, tie stems into small, loose bundles and hang upside down in a dry, warm, airy, sun-free room – don’t have bundles too close together as you want to ensure airflow.
4. Dry them using your microwave
This works well for small amounts, but if you want to preserve herbs with thick leaves, you will need to air dry them for a few days first. Once dry, place one layer of the herb on a dry paper towel, then cover with another; place in microwave and heat for 1-2 minutes on high. Let the leaves cool, then check for brittleness – if they do not crumble easily, heat them again for 30 seconds, then check for brittleness. Continue with 30-second blasts until they reach the desired texture. Store in well-sealed, sterilised glass containers in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight.