By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
This time of the gardening year is full of chores that need to be done before the winter wind blows.
But as autumn’s crisp breath seems to be earlier this year I am being very diligent with my herb preservation.
In the past I have let Mother Nature take her course as far as my Kitchen Herb Garden but not this year.
I plan to give herb baskets as gifts this year so every herb counts.
My first task is to survey my Kitchen Herb Garden. What will I keep for winter and what will I just let be. Next I need to decide which method of preservation will work for the herbs I want to preserve. The choices I have available are as follows: growing them indoors, freezing, drying naturally, drying in the microwave, making a jelly, making a sauce, making a flavorful oil, vinegar, or butter.
Part 1 covers preservation that does not require cooking and creates herbs that traditional used during cooking while part 2 covers forms of preservation that creates additions to meals to enhance the cooked product such as jellies, sauces, oils, vinegars, or butters.
Grow Herbs Indoors
Bringing herbs indoors can be a challenge but is well worth the effort and time. Nothing beats fresh sage in dressing for Thanksgiving or scented geranium leaves floating in a hot bath with their essential oils impregnating the relaxing steam.
The following herbs do great when brought indoors. These include rosemary, bay leaf, basil, sage, parsley, and lavender.
Freezing is a great way of preserving herbs that you want to use “fresh” without having to grow them. Basil is an excellent example of an herb that freezes well. Make pesto and freeze it or freeze leaves flat on a tray and bag when frozen. Another way is to freeze in ice cube trays. This is done by simply chopping up basil and placing in ice cube trays. Then fill each cube with a little water. Once frozen place in labeled bags until needed.
Herbs can be hung up and simply dried in the air. Some individuals take leaves and flowers off plant stems and dry on a screen while others hang herbs on an herb rack or from the ceiling.
But regardless of which drying method you choose the process is easy. Pick the herbs early in the morning and wash. Then hang up or remove leaves and dry. Once the herbs are dried rub leaves and flowers off stems and place in labeled glass jars. Store away from direct sunlight.
Drying in Microwave
This method is easy and takes no time at all. But keep in mind that each herb will have its own cook time.
Pick herbs early in the morning and wash. Once dry place on paper towels and then onto a microwave proof plate. Start out with 30 seconds on each side. Let cool and check to see if herb is brittle, if not cook for another 30 seconds on each side and check for doneness. Continue until herb is brittle. Once herb is brittle store in glass jar and label.