It’s harvest time. Your garden is full of beautiful, ripe vegetables and tasty fruits that you’ll soon be putting in jars or the freezer for the coming winter. Your herb container is also overflowing. What can you do with your extra herbs to preserve them and add them to your best recipes? Here are some ideas for preserving herbs from the garden.
Make some pesto
In addition to the traditional basil pesto, made with basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, parmesan and pine nuts, you can make pesto with many other herbs. You can even mix them together to make a very interesting herb pesto. Use different nuts to vary the flavours: walnuts, almonds, cashews. Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks. To extend its life, freeze it in ice cube trays and cover each portion with a little olive oil to prevent oxidation.
Drying and chopping
Let your herbs air dry by hanging them upside down for a few days. To speed up the process, you can also use a commercial dehydrator, the oven or even the microwave to dry your herbs. Once dry, chop them up and store them in small, well-marked airtight jars. Be careful, some herbs lose a lot of flavour with dehydration. This is the case for parsley and chives, among others. It’s better to preserve those in other ways.
Although it’s possible to freeze whole herbs, it’s better to freeze them in oil or water. Crush the herbs in each hollow of an ice cube tray and fill with water or oil before placing in the freezer for a few hours. The resulting cubes can be added directly to soups and stews for flavour and freshness. Once frozen, store the cubes in an airtight container or freezer bag.
You can infuse your favorite herbs in a good olive, sunflower or grapeseed oil to enhance their flavour. You can blend the herbs in a food processor and then add them to the oil, or you can add branches or whole leaves. The look and taste will be different; experiment. Use your infused oils in salads, on pizzas, or drizzled over grilled fish and chicken.
Be creative! There’s no reason to waste a single leaf of our precious herbs. Your winter meals will taste even better with a little touch of summer inside!