Ways to Preserve your Herbs to Last Longer

5 min read|Last updated at: December 08, 2022

Before the advent of first frost, many gardeners will trim down any herbs in their garden to the root level. This can result in an overabundance of herbs, and many often throw away the extra amount. However, by preserving herbs using various methods, you can extend their shelf life and ensure a continuous supply of fresh herbs all year long. If you’ve ever grown herbs, or maybe cultivated an herb garden, then you’re probably wondering how to preserve your herbs so that they last longer. Two common ways to preserve herbs are freezing and drying. This article explores the various ways to preserve herbs and which methods work best for certain herbs so that you can pick the preferred option. 

Ways to Preserve your Herbs to Last Longer | Vego Garden

Growing and Harvesting Herbs

Herbs should be harvested in the morning, after the dew evaporates but before the sun is high in the sky. For leafy herbs like basil or oregano, the optimal time to harvest them is just before they flower, when the plant oils are at their highest levels. Using a pair of clean scissors, cut the stems above a leaf or a pair of leaves, leaving 4 – 6 inches of stem. After they flower, herbs lose their flavor and become bitter. Make sure to throw out any wilted or discolored leaves. 

With the leaves still on their stems, wash under light running water, then gently shake to remove excess water. Wrap in paper towels to drain. For short-term storage, place the herbs in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Alternatively, herbs can be placed in a jar of water and covered with a plastic bag cinched closed with a rubber band. For more delicate herbs, place them in a jar of water on a countertop. Depending on the type, they can last up to 3 weeks. 

Which Herbs to Freeze and Which to Dry

Some herbs retain their flavor better when dried, while others respond better to freezing. Below is a list of herbs and the preferred method of preservation – experiment with different methods to see which ones you prefer. 

Herbs that Can be Frozen: Chives, cilantro, lemon balm, lemon verbena, 

Herbs that Can be Dried: Fennel, scented geraniums 

Either Way Works: Basil, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme 

Ways to Preserve your Herbs to Last Longer | Vego Garden

How to Dry Herbs 

There are many ways to dry herbs, from hanging them in bundles to drying them in racks. For herbs with thick leaves, such as basil and parsley, it is recommended that you dry them in a food dehydrator. 

  • Use a dehydrator: A quick way to dry herbs is using a food dehydrator. Many culinary and tea herbs such as basil, oregano, mint, and lemon balm work well using this method because they have a high moisture content and need to be dried quickly. Place a single layer of washed herbs on the dehydrator racks, then follow the instruction manual for more detailed directions. When the leaves start to crumble, they can be removed and placed in airtight glass containers. 
  • Hang them to air-dry: Sturdy, low-moisture varieties can be air-dried, especially if you live in an arid region. Traditional herbs like sage, parsley, and mint can be tied in small clusters and hung stem-side up in a dry, well-ventilated place. Herbs are thoroughly dried when the leaves crumble and the stems break – a process that takes 1 – 2 weeks. 
  • Dry in oven: For herbs that contain more moisture content, like mint, chives, or basil, oven-drying is recommended. Spread washed herbs on a baking pan or cookie sheet. Dry at low heat, at temperatures 110 – 130°F, for 2 – 4 hours. Like with other drying methods, the herbs are dried when they start to crumble. Remove and transfer to airtight containers including plastic containers, freezer bags, or canning jars. 

Ways to Preserve your Herbs to Last Longer | Vego Garden

How to Freeze Herbs

When herbs are frozen, the water in their cells tends to expand, causing them to become limp. As a result, frozen herbs are recommended for cooking instead of garnishes or as decoration. Make sure to label with name and date to keep track of your herbs. Freezing is suited for leafy herbs like basil, parsley, and cilantro. 

  • Freeze in layers: One common way to freeze herbs is by spreading them on a cooking tray lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for one hour, or until frozen. This is known as flash freezing and works well for herbs like basil, dill, chives, oregano, and lemon balm, as well as other vegetables. Transfer the frozen herbs into airtight containers, where they can be stored in the freezer for up to two months. 
  • Freeze in ice cubes: Tender herbs like lemon balm, cilantro, and mint can be stored in ice cubes to be later used in cooking. Simply place chopped herbs or leaves into an ice cube tray half-filled with water. Add more water, making sure that the herbs are pressed in. Place in the refrigerator and freeze until solid. Transfer to plastic bags or freezer jars. When ready to use, do not thaw – toss the cubes directly into the cooking utensil you are using. 
  • Freeze in oil: Similar to freezing them in ice cubes, herbs can also be frozen in oil. Olive oil is recommended if you want it to complement its flavor; otherwise, a neutral oil like canola oil is used. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays or small jelly jars. Mix 2 cups of chopped herbs with to ½ cup olive oil. Unlike with ice, the oil won’t be frozen solid, allowing you to scoop out the appropriate amount. 
  • Roll them up like a cigar: Flat-leafed herbs like parsley, chervil, sage, and tarragon perform well when rolled up, which takes less space in the refrigerator. Remove the leaves and pack the herbs in a small plastic bag. Press and roll tightly to eliminate any air trapped inside the bag. Use rubber bands to secure it and maintain its shape. When you want to use it, remove the rubber bands, cut off a small piece on the end, then quickly return to the freezer. 

Is it cheaper to grow your own herbs instead of buying them?

Even if it might not seem that way, buying herbs from the grocery store is often more expensive. The price of several dollars for fresh herbs or spices in plastic containers can quickly add up, especially if you are constantly using them in your cooking. By contrast, herbs are among the cheapest and easiest plants to grow. Those who are already growing a vegetable garden can consider growing herbs alongside their crops – Vego Garden raised beds are configured to optimize the space between your crops, resulting in a plentiful yield. 

Ways to Preserve your Herbs to Last Longer | Vego Garden

Why should I grow an herb themed garden? 

An herb garden is an easy way to guarantee access to a supply of fresh herbs year-round. Many culinary herbs also have beneficial medicinal properties and make great companion plants for popular garden crops. To cultivate an herb garden, curate herbs and flowers that are compatible with each other and arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Raised garden beds are ideal for growing herbs because they allow for more accessible, low-maintenance gardening. For beginners, we recommend the more compact Kid’s Garden Bed or Vego Herb Garden Bed pack.

 

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