Preserving herbsWise Blog Team
Herbs, aside from being delicious, are rich with health-boosting compounds and nutrients, and can sometimes be used as basic medicines. That’s why it’s often a great idea for those who are interested in emergency preparedness to start their own herb gardens. Since herbs usually have a short shelf life, many people choose to dry their herbs after picking in order to preserve them. Unfortunately, drying an herb will not only change its basic flavor characteristics, but it may also leech out some of the crucial nutrients and therapeutic compounds. Here are a few other ways that you can preserve your herbs.
Freezing your herbs is simple: take your dry, chopped up or whole leaves, and place them on a baking sheet in your freezer. Leave them overnight, and once they’re completely frozen, place them inside of a sealed container for later use. As long as the herbs are stored properly—and as long as you prevent freezer burn from occurring—your herbs will retain their flavor and healthy compounds for months or even longer.
Take one part herb, mash it into softened butter, and then reshape the mixture until it’s roughly brick-shaped. Then you can either serve the butter immediately, or refrigerate or freeze it for later. Either way, herbal butter will help your herbs last longer, and the addition of butter will help boost the flavor. Herbal butter is great when paired with meat, fish, and veggies. You can also add minced garlic to your favorite herbal butter to make an easy and excellent garlic bread.
You can flavor your oil—like olive oil—with the addition of certain herbs. Simply place an herb, like basil, in your oil, and you can use the resulting flavored-oil for cooking or as a salad dressing. However, it’s important to remember that flavored oil isn’t the best way to preserve herbs. Oil tends to seal out air, and if you place still-green herbs in oil and leave the resulting mixture in a warm area, you can create a potentially moist environment for harmful bacteria to thrive. So, if want to make a flavored oil, make sure to refrigerate it immediately, and use the entirety of the oil over the course of a few weeks.
You can also add herbs to vinegar—vinegar, unlike oil, acts as an excellent preservative. First, find a bottle that can be sealed with a cork stopper. Then, take your herbs and wash and dry them. You can pair certain herbs with certain vinegars—for instance, you can pair lemon balm with white-wine vinegar, or apple-cider vinegar with rosemary. Fill the bottles with your herb and vinegar mixture, and then store in a cool, dry place. You can use the vinegar immediately, or you can effectively seal the bottles with a bit of beeswax—once you do this, the herb-infused vinegar should last for several months.
Preserving your herbs is relatively easy. Take advantage of the health benefits of your herbs by using them in your cooking—in fact, some preservation methods, like herb flavored oil, are perfect for preparing meals. With the right methods, you can use your herbs in the kitchen throughout the year—even during the winter months!