Isn’t it great at this time of the year to be able to go out to your herb patch and pick some fresh to go with your meal, either to add during cooking or to add that finishing touch: Mint and new potatoes, sorrel omelette for a light summer meal, oregano for Italian dishes, while basil, parsley, chives & dill all add highlights to a salad.
But with all this herb abundance around have you ever wondered how to store them for the lean winter months? The answer is easy: depending on the type of herb you can either freeze, dry or add them to oils & vinegars to keep the flavours long after the summer has passed.
For both drying and freezing, pick the herbs just before they flower selecting the topmost, most tender new stalks. Picking before they flower ensures the leaves contain the most oil – this oil produces the most taste and aroma to flavour your dishes.
Freezing Herbs – Most herbs are easiest to freeze complete on the stalk, just gather a bunch and place in a plastic bag. When you need to use some, just snip the required amount off the bunch. Another convenient way to store herbs for soups or sauces is to finely chop prior to putting in an ice cube tray and covering with a little water. Basil tends to lose its colour when frozen so puree in a blender with just a little olive oil before transferring to the ice cube tray. Herbs most suitable for freezing: Basil, Chives, Parsley and Coriander
Drying herbs – Slow air drying is the best way to preserve the flavour and aroma of herbs, the slow natural evaporation of the moisture means that the optimum amount of oil is left. Take a bunch of your favourite herbs, wash, drain and blot well. Make sure they are as dry as possible as wet herbs will go mouldy before they dry out. Tie the stems together and leave in a cool, shady area for about 2 weeks or until the herbs are thoroughly dried. If you don’t have a suitable area for drying then try putting them in a paper bag, with a few holes in it for ventilation. Herbs most suited for drying: Thyme, Rosemary, Bay, Sage and Tarragon.