The Easiest Way to Preserve Herbs
It's summer. That means gardens and CSAs.
And for us, right now, that means lots of fresh herbs. Basil. Parsley. Dill...
Are you wondering what to do with all of it?
Actually, for that reason, I almost never bought fresh herbs, mostly because I didn't know what to do with the leftovers!
Two years ago when we got a whole bunch of parsley and basil, I just dried everything and it worked great. But this year, I thought that I sure would like to have some fresh-tasting herbs throughout the year, so I got down to figuring out how to preserve them without drying. And what I found was remarkably easy and worked out great!
First of all, let me say that of course, you can choose to either dehydrate or freeze your leftover herbs (canning doesn't work that well :-)). Now, I love my dehydrator, and I love dried herbs, but here are some things to think about on both sides of the coin:
Freezing Versus Dehydrating Herbs
Here are some of the differences between freezing and dehydrating herbs.
1. Freezing will give you more of a fresh flavor to your herbs
2. Dehydrating doesn't work for all herbs (cilantro does not dry well. See my post on 6 Super Tips for Cilantro for more info on this great herb!)
3. Of course, dehydrated foods take up less room and you will not take up freezer space with the herbs if your space is limited.
4. There are cost differences. See my post on Which Saves Most - Dehydrating, Canning, or Freezing?
Now, there's quite a bit of information out there about freezing herbs, with three main techniques that seem to be the mainstays.
They consisted of:
- freezing in single layers
- freezing chopped herbs in ice cube trays, and
- freezing herbs with oil as a preparation for making pesto.
All of them were too much work for me. I know--it sounds like I am just lazy, but really it's just that I have too much going on and need to cut corners somewhere.
So I ended up trying something easy, doable and workable -- and it worked!
'Cause that's what I need. Less fuss. Like my post this past week on The Easiest Way to Peel Garlic.
Get the job done so that I can get onto other things!
What You Will Need
Herbs (of course)
Food Safe Plastic Bags (I love the bags at Country Life Natural Foods, but this type and this type on Amazon seem to be pretty similar.) Code WHOLENEWMOM gets a great discount at Country Life, however, and they have great prices on lots of quality foods and things.
Twixit Clips - I use these for EVERYTHING! These clips from IKEA are another great choice. Buy a bunch because you literally will be addicted to using them for ALL the bags in your house!
More Food Preservation Posts
You might also want to check out these posts for other ways to preserve your bounty....
- 4 Ways to Freeze Avocados (yes, you can do this!!)
- How to Freeze Berries
- 4 Ways to Freeze Bananas
- How to Freeze Tomatoes--No Blanching and No Peeling!
- Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes
- How to Store Prepared Beans
- How To Freeze Cucumbers--a Complete Guide
How to Freeze Herbs
- Wash herbs.
- Pat dry.
- Leave out overnight to dry completely (You can dry the herbs on any flat surface, but one with ventilation will work best. A cooling rack would be a good option. I used the trays from my Excalibur Dehydrator. See, you can even use your dehydrator to freeze herbs!
- Place in plastic bags and take out as much air as possible. (You can even stick a straw in the bag to suck the air out if you like. I have not done that yet, however, but I want to!
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That's it! Quick and easy. And really, I don't see the need for freezing in single layers like berries. My herbs come out of the bags easily and I can simply chop up or break off whatever amount I need for a recipe. In fact, I don't think it makes sense to freeze in cubes. If you end up needing half a cube, then trying to chop one of those would not be something that I would look forward to doing!
Don't Have a Dehydrator?
I know that not all of you have one. Obviously, for this technique, you don't need the whole machine--just the trays. You could buy some circular trays here and have a handy dandy herb dehydrating system on the cheap!
Of course, with all of the great things you can do with a dehydrator, I HIGHLY recommend one--they are coming out with all kinds of new designs too. So many great ones to choose from. You can check them all out here.
Do you grow your own herbs?
I have an overabundance of Oregano this year, so I think I will give this a try!
where do I agree to the comment policy???????
Hi there. I'm so sorry are you being asked to do that? We have had some bugs on the site recently. Please do let me know!
Interesting. You say you won't buy a Food Saver because of the plastic, and yet here you are, freezing in plastic bags.....
I have heard also that if you are going to use the herbs for cooking, freezing in ice cube trays with water works great.
Hi Carol. Yes, you got that right--I'm not perfect :). About the bags vs Food Saver issue, however, one thing to keep in mind is that I use the bags for food storage already so I'm not buying more plastic. And I don't have to vacuum seal them so any offgassing from melting plastic isn't happening in my home (something that really concerns me). I feel like if I bought a Food Saver that I would be basically committing to doing more of that but I guess one could use the F.S. for sealing mylar instead--something I have thought about. I guess it's all about balance, which we will never really achieve :).
I would love to just freeze in glass, but there are some real issues w/ that as well (once we had a glass jar of broth break in the freezer and it for sure wasn't too full. Messy and odd.
I do like the idea of a freeze dryer--and I like the idea of using a Food Saver to store in jars. Just not sure what direction I will go--what do you do, typically? Plastic is a tough topic. I think it's about minimizing use.
Mason brand makes glass freezer jars with plastic reusable screw on lids. Love 'em for my herbs.
Hi, I air dry my herbs on parchment paper, but it can take days, weeks.... This sounds so much easier. Oh, I froze blueberries this year and did the straw method to remove air. Works great! BTW, The link for the plastic bags you found on Amazon is redirecting to your website.
Great to hear about the straw method! I haven't committed to a Food Saver yet and really don't want to. I bought one but took it back b/c I couldn't deal with the plastic issue and wonder about sealing it and the toxins that would be emitted.....thanks for the heads up on the link. I found what I think is really close and linked to that -- hope that helps!
What condition are the herbs in when you thaw them out? Are they hard and unbendable? Or do they feel like you just picked them out of the garden?
They basically function like dried herbs since that is what they are. You can chop them ahead of time if you like.
So...Do you dry the basil first before bagging?
Sorry, a little confused. Do you let basil completely dry (crisp) before freezing it? 5-6 days? TIA
No problem. If you dehydrate your herbs, you don't need to freeze them--you can choose which one you wish to do. You could freeze something that is dehydrated, but it's not necessary.
Hi, I hope I can ask this where it makes the most sense. Instructions are to wash herbs and leave over night to dry. Some herbs are still limp (for lack of a better word) after 24 hours. Are you still putting them in your bags (to freeze) this way? I do not use a dehydrator as this is my first shot at trying this. ? TIA
Hello there. I'm so so sorry for the late reply to this. I dried them completely first but you could freeze them as you did it as well, but the enzymes in them might cause a problem down the road...... I'm going to be rewriting this post with more tips so please stay tuned. Trying to catch up with so many things to make the information better on as many posts as possible. Thanks for reading.
I am doing it for years, I am also freezing washed and finely cut parsley and dill, which I add to everything. I freeze it in zip locks.
Lemon balm makes a therapeutic calming tea the best before bed. 🙂