Wednesday, August 3, 2011

preserving herbs

I probably mentioned this trick in passing, but one great way to keep your fresh herbs fresh is to treat them like flowers. Trim the ends and pop them in a cup of fresh water. As long as you keep the water fresh, they'll keep like this for a little while longer than if you were to just store them in the fridge in a bag.

Now I have to share another trick I recently learned for keeping herbs around even longer.

All you have to do is freeze them.

Wash them, chop them, stick them in a freezer bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and keep them in the freezer. Whenever you need a pinch while cooking, reach in and grab some. No chopping or washing or thawing required.

I was told this would work for everything except oregano. Don't ask me why not oregano. It may be because the Greeks have a special place in their hearts for oregano (and feta and tzatziki and olive oil) and they would never ever dream of freezing it. I don't know.

Since the oregano I planted twice refuses to grow, I couldn't test it for you. I did, however, test three herbs I do have growing right now. Basil, curly-leafed parsley, and chives. Plus I've already got a bowl of flat-leafed parsley in the freezer (that's it in the pictures above).

After freezing, I wouldn't use these herbs in anything requiring fresh crispness like a salad. But in sauces, on baked potatoes, hamburger mixes, soups, anything of the cooked variety they're perfect. The freezing process just makes them a little wilty once they've been unthawed. It's not that bad, but I don't think it would be very pleasant in a fresh salad. (Potato salad might be the exception since the texture is all pretty much one note and no one's really expecting crisp greens in that one.)

I don't know how long they'll last, but the bowl of flat-leafed parsley has been in my freezer for almost a month now. I keep meaning to transfer it to a bag because I feel like that's a better option for keeping it fresh, but despite the loose covering, it doesn't seem to be suffering any ill effects.

Freezing is a great alternative to drying herbs for the winter and, when added to cooked meals, it really looks and tastes as though you chopped up something fresh. Come fall, I'll be chopping and freezing the bulk of the herbs I grew this summer (which wasn't very much due to all the excess rain). I'm sure I'll be able to make them last well into the winter without having to purchase more. It's going to be really nice grabbing fresh-ish home-grown herbs out of the freezer for meals during the winter months as a bright little reminder of summer.


Torviewtoronto said...

lovely post I haven't frozen herbs before

Stephanie said...

That's a really good idea. I have a lot of thyme growing in our huge bush out back that needs to be picked and either dried or frozen. Frozen sounds easy!

GALaxy said...

Torviewtoronto: I hadn't before either and I hadn't even thought about it. It was one of those light-bulb moments for me!

Stephanie: It's super easy! I'm usually kind of lazy when it comes to using fresh herbs for dishes. Just the washing alone puts me off. But I've been using so much of the frozen flat-leafed parsley just cuz I can easily reach in and grab a bunch out without even thinking about it.