Preserving Herbs

Published August 18, 2023 by Joyce

Dehydrating and Freezing Herbs

Harvesting Herbs

Cleaning your herbs:

Damaged thyme leaves to be removed before washing in preparation for dehydrating
It is common for plants such as this thyme to have damaged or dead leaves. Pinch or snip them off.
Dead and damaged leaves have been removed from this sage.
The sage on the right has had any dead or damaged leaves removed. (Debris on left)

Place your herbs in a large bowl of water so the plant material has room to move with ease. If you have a large amount, work in small batches. I like to rinse in one side of the sink and have the strainer of my salad spinner in the other side to catch the herbs as I swish and remove small handfuls.

Time to clean the herbs in cool, clean tap water using plenty of water to flush away debris.
Time to clean the spearmint!
Washing mint in cool tap water to demonstrate the grass and debris that may not be apparent.
Note the bits of debris left behind after lifting out small handfuls of spearmint, swishing as we go!

As we swish the herbs freely in the water, any dirt, insects or other debris are rinsed into the water. Swish and lift small handfuls and transfer them into the strainer basket of the salad spinner.

TIP: If you don't have a salad spinner, you can lay your herbs in a colander to drain and then on a clean bath-sized towel. Pull the corners of the towel together and lightly roll and flip the towel to help to dry the leaves.

Dehydrator Method

Herbs in the Dehydrator
Herbs placed with ample airspace in the dehydrator.

Place a single layer of herbs, not touching, on the trays of your dehydrator. For best flavor, dehydrate at 95 - 110 degrees F. Times vary depending on the plant you are working with. My thyme took a few hours, sage twice that long. Herbs are ready when they snap or crumble between your fingers. Each has its own texture.

Sage keeps its shape even when dry, for example. It can be stored in whole leaves or rubbed between thumb and forefinger to crumble it into material similar to what you find in the market. Thyme crumbles easily leaving stems that are better picked out as they don't easily break down in cooking.

Store right away in sealed plastic bags or other airtight containers to prevent mold. Herbs left in the dehydrator will get soft again.

Air Dry Method

After washing, lay plants out on trays until they are no longer wet from washing. Tie in small bundles, allowing for air flow, and hang until dry. Or lay out on sheet trays until fully dry, turning frequently. A fan can help speed up this process. If humidity is high, it can be difficult to get the herbs to dry completely. Watch for mold.

Freezing Herbs

After washing, finely chop herbs. Put them in containers for use and freeze. Most herbs will freeze into a solid block so I like to freeze them in small amounts. Another solution is to freeze them on a sheet tray and then bag them once frozen.

My favorite method for freezing herbs is to chop them in the food processor and spoon them into an ice cube tray designated for this use (the lingering flavor of basil is not that good in a pitcher of lemonade - ask me how I know) . Once frozen, pop out the cubes and bag them up for long term storage. Then I can toss a cube of basil in a pot of sauce or use several for a batch of pesto.

Savor the flavor all winter long !!

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