The Preservation and Use of Herbs

The Preservation and Use of Herbs

The preservation and storage of fresh herbs from your garden is more simple a task than most may presume.  For those who do not have access to a greenhouse or indoor garden space, it can become a convenient option during winter months.  The quality of the finished product may fluctuate, due to the variety of ways in which to handle your herbs year-round.

With herbs’ natural oils can be contained, they are able to be three to four times as strong as those fresh leaves that are used immediately.  Natural fragrances can, in fact, be held within the leaves.  Methods varying from microwaving to dehydrating these greens have always been an option.  To save on electricity and cost, there are other favorable techniques in which to attain similar results.

The timely effort in preserving herbs tends to be of importance.  Directly after an herb is plucked from its plant, it begins to wilt and expire.  Most herbs will naturally last between three and five days.  Removing moisture from the herb, immediately, will post-pone this wilt phase.  Shaking or patting them with a dry paper towel removes most dampness and/or dew.  Also, placing a dry paper towel in your storage container can absorb some of the greens natural secretions.

Herbs with a small amount of moisture content, such as:  thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, dill, small flowers and parsley can be bundled and hung.  Separating these herbs into small, stemmed leaves, prior to hanging, can speed up the drying process.  After separating leaves, bind in a dry, warm place out of direct sunlight.  Optimal drying temperature for most greenery is between eighty and ninety degrees.  If the conditions add up, your herbs could be completely dry in a matter of days.

Large-leafed herbs can also be dried using a shallow-rimmed tray; covered with cheesecloth.  As some of the bigger leafs may not have lengthy stems, this option may be a better alternative.  In this drying method, the leaves can immediately be removed from the stems after being plucked.  Placing the leaves in a single layer, cover your tray with the cheesecloth in a well-ventilated area.  Similar to the bundle method, it is best to keep these drying herbs out of direct sunlight.

When herbs are completely dry, using these or any other method, stems can be removed.  Airtight plastic or glass containers seem to produce lengthier results for the ‘keep’ of your leafy varieties.  Herbs can then be placed in your freezer, and held for use at any time thereafter.  Signs that leaves that should be discarded, include:  darkness of color, brittle to touch or any mold.

Soup, stews, and other creative recipes seem to now be inclusive of more fresh herbs to their ingredient lists.  Attempting to cut back on sodium, mostly, but also allowing for an alternative to the receipt of antioxidants in your diet.  Crumbling the dried herbs between your fingers before including them in your cuisine can not only enhance your senses and the aromas of your kitchen, but can also add more flavor to your dishes.  Adding your herbs in the last twenty minutes of cooking will keep the tastes alive, in not overcooking them.

Regardless of the methods or use for drying, storing or cooking with your herbs, the time commitment is small.  It can be fun to experiment with new flavors, while also getting your green time in, regardless of the outdoor conditions.

About the Author: Pamela Ravenwood is a freelance writer, journalist, and writing coach who lives in the desert. In addition to spending her days writing, she also loves to tend to her organic garden where she grows as much of her own food as possible. In this, she counts on her cord reel to keep her hoses from drying out from the desert heat.

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One Response to “The Preservation and Use of Herbs”

  1. Carol says:

    Have you ever tried using a dehydrator to dry your herbs. Works great and super fast. Reminds me that I need to go pick a bunch for winter. Coming fast. Great site. I’ll be back.
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..10 Favorite Twitter Tools for Bloggers =-.

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