Preserving Summertime Herbs for Year-Round Enjoyment

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Adding fresh flavor to your cooking can be easy and affordable with home-grown herbs. Fresh herbs can be less than fresh and quite pricey when purchased at the grocery store. Now that Summer is here, the weather is just right for growing the freshest herbs for use in your culinary creations.

Herbs are easy to grow, whether in a garden or in pots on a patio or in a sunny window. You can grow them from inexpensive starter plants, purchased at a garden shop or nursery. Most herbs can be grown from seeds, too, which are even more inexpensive but take longer to yield since they’re not yet sprouted.

Consider these simple-to-grow herbs to spice up your meals:

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

All these herbs can be enjoyed fresh but chances are, you’ll grow far more than you’ll be able to use. Rather than waste all that flavor, you can preserve herbs for later use.There are several methods for preserving herbs; the way you choose depends on the herb itself and on your preference.

Whichever method you choose, begin with these steps:

  • Harvest herbs when they’re free from morning dew or wet from rain or watering, but not withered after the heat of the day.
  • Rinse.
  • Pat completely dry gently with paper towels.


Most herbs take well to freezing.

Method 1: (store for several months)

  • Spread herbs in single layer on tray or sheet pan so leaves will freeze individually without clumping together
  • Freeze
  • Gather frozen leaves and store in freezer

Method 2: (for longer storage)

  • Place several whole leaves or a spoonful of chopped or smaller herbs into an ice cube tray.
  • Fill tray half-full with water.
  • Freeze.
  • Once frozen, fill tray with water so herbs are completely immersed and freeze again.
  • Remove from ice cube trays and store in freezer.

Use frozen herbs as you would fresh. Frozen cubes can be added to soups and sauces.


Many herbs take well to drying but those with high water content (such as basil, chives lemon balm, mint and tarragon) are likely to get moldy before they’re completely dry. Here’s how to dry the rest:

  • Remove lower leaves from stems.
  • Gather in bunches of no more than 5-10 stems so the air can reach them all.
  • Tie stems together.
  • Hang upside down in a dark, dry, out-of-the way location. Alternatively, spread herbs on a screen, covered with cheesecloth, turning every few days for even drying.
  • Allow to dry for 1 – 3 weeks.
  • When they crumble, they’re ready for storage in airtight containers.

Dried herbs will retain their full flavor for six months. Use half as much dried herbs as fresh.

Herb Oils

These are wonderful to enhance cooked dishes or dressings. Simply place herbs into clean, dry glass jars and cover with extra virgin olive oil, leaving some space at the top of the jar. Store in the refrigerator.

Herb vinegars

These are tasty for spicing up salads.

  • In a large food processor bowl, combine ¾ cup herbs of your choice and 1 cup vinegar.
  • Puree for 30 seconds.
  • Add more herbs and 2 more cups of vinegar.
  • Pulse for 2 more minutes.
  • Strain the mixture through a coffee filter into a bowl, pressing the herbs to extract all the vinegar.
  • Repeat with a clean coffee filter with the liquid in the bowl.
  • Pour into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid for storage.
  • Add whole herbs and spices of your choice.

The herb flavors will intensify over time.

The fresh flavors of Summer herbs don’t have to end with the growing season.

How do you use and preserve herbs?

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