You all know how much I love herbs. They pack a lot of flavor and savory aroma into a little package. Herbs add flavor and depth to your cooking and will enhance your food storage. So, now that it’s summer, it’s a good time to stock up on herbs.
The cheapest way to get quality herbs is to grow them in your garden. If you can’t grow a garden, herbs are the perfect container plant. Just $1 for seeds or $3-5 for plantsfrom the greenhouse will give you fresh herbs all summer and plenty of extra to freeze or dry for use all winter.
Herbs are the first thing to mature in the summer garden and are extraordinarily easy to dry and preserve. To dry your herbs, pick them in the mid-morning, when the sun has warmed them enough that their essential oils are circulating in the plant but not so late in the day that the heat the oils have begun to dissipate. If there is dirt on the leaves, gently swish them in a sink of water and shake excess water off. Lay them on dehydrator trays or dry them on window screens. Put the screens in your car (with the windows rolled up), on a warm porch or in an oven set at 100°. Most herbs will dry in 6-8 hours. When they are dry, crumble the leaves, remove stems if desired and store in a dark glass container with a tight-fitting lid. (Remember my idea for custom jars for your herbs?)
You can also have the fresh taste of herbs all winter long if you freeze them. Snip or dice herbs into small pieces and put them into ice cube trays. Fill the trays with olive oil and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen, remove them from trays and put them into Ziploc baggies and pop them back into the freezer. Be sure to label the baggies! Each cube will hold about 1 tablespoon of herbs—perfect for most recipes—and enough olive oil so you can saute them.
One of my favorite ways to store herbs is in pesto. Most of my readers have heard of and probably even tasted it. Pesto is traditionally made with basil, parmesan cheese, fresh garlic cloves, olive oil and nuts (usually pine nuts, but walnuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews work fine, or you can eliminate the nuts altogether.) But you can also make pesto with just about any herb: parsley, sage, cilantro, mint, tarragon and oregano all make delicious pestos. You will impress your friends when you serve dishes made with this delicious herb accent.
When you make pesto, pour the finished product into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop the frozen cubes into a Ziploc baggie and back into the freezer to use the rest of the year.
Don’t let your food storage meals become dull and routine. Spice it up with a good supply of herb