Thursday, May 16, 2013

Make the most out of your herbs this Spring!

Have you purchased fresh herbs, used a small portion and then have the rest go bad before you can use them? Or do you have a full garden already that needs trimming?  Here are some helpful tips on how to get the best use of your herbs whether purchased at a store or grown in your own garden.

How to keep herbs fresh:

Wash and dry herbs. Cut off ends of stems. Place in glass of water. Cover loosely with plastic bag and refrigerate. You can also purchase herb keepers such as this Compact Herb Keeper that helps to extend the life of your fresh cut herbs.


How to refresh and wash herbs:

If leafy herbs are slightly limp. Cut a portion of the stems off. Gently rinse them and then submerge them in ice water. Swirl them around and let them sit for about 10 minutes allowing any dirt to settle to the bottom. Lift them out of the bowl, do not dump them into strainer or salad spinner or the dirt will get on the herbs again. Spin in salad spinner or pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel. They are now ready for use.

How to freeze herbs:

This solution allows you to save herbs for several months and you can use them at your convenience. Though all herbs can be frozen or dried, some herbs freeze better than dehydrating.  For herbs like basil, parsley, chives, oregano, mint or tarragon, freezing is an option that works well.

Here are three different ways to freeze herbs:

Start by washing the herbs and dry them thoroughly. If herbs are from your garden wash in salted water. The salt will kill any bugs that may be on the herbs. Make sure to label and date your freezer bags.

1.       Chop leftover herbs. Transfer approximately 2 tablespoons herbs into an ice cube tray. Top with water and freeze. Once frozen cubes can be removed from the tray and stored in plastic freezer bags in the freezer for future use. By measuring out the herbs you will know how much you are adding to your future recipe.


2.       Another great way to freeze herbs is to make an oil based paste.  Chop your herbs. Mix about 1/3 cup of olive oil with 2 cups of herbs.  Then freeze in the ice cube trays. Once frozen cubes can be removed from the tray and stored in plastic freezer bags in the freezer for future use.

3.       Remove leaves from stems and place on a cookie sheet. Place in your freezer for several hours. Transfer leaves to a plastic freezer bag and remove as much air as possible. Store in freezer until needed.

How to dry herbs:

Sage, mint, rosemary, and oregano dry well. Place on wire cookie racks and allow to sit until dry, several days. If you have a gas oven place herbs on a baking sheets and set them in the oven with the door closed. The pilot is enough heat to dry the herbs nicely and they retain their color better than drying them on the counter. Once dry remove the leaves from the stems and place in airtight glass jars.

Another method to dry herbs is to clean and dry the herbs. Place on a paper towel and heat in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Place in air tight container. Best used within 3 months.


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