Freezing or Drying Herbs?

Freezing or Drying Herbs?
Freezing or Drying Herbs?

You've been picking and giving away all those herbs planted so long ago: mint - who knew there were so many kinds? - basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, cilantro. But with the end of the growing season approaching it's time to think of yourself.

Freezing and drying herbs for later use is as old as growing herbs, and there are plenty of ways to get the job done.

A good start

First, pick herbs in the morning, just after dew evaporates and before the sun's heat can affect them. Keep only the best-looking herbs - the plants are still producing, after all.

Lightly wash away soil with cool water and shake gently to remove excess Let dry on paper towels.

Now it's decision-time: freeze or dry?

Freezing herbs

Take your herbage - especially those with leaves like basil, thyme, and mint - and finely dice them. Depending on the herb, a few small stem bits might not hurt.

Next grab an ice tray. Flexible silicone ice trays work best and come in a variety of sizes. Small cubes usually work best for cooking.

Gently pack your chopped herbs into the cube spaces and fill with water from a pitcher to reduce splashing. Place in your freezer.

When frozen, pop the cubes out and store in airtight containers.

Pro tip: Always label your container so you don't use the wrong herb.

To use, just pull out a cube and use as a one-for-one measurement in recipes. The herbage will be limp but will measure just the same.

Drying herbs

Unless you live in the desert southwest, you'll need something to remove moisture from them. Readily - available food dehydrators come with many trays and automatic heat and air control.

Set the thermostat to between 95 and 115 degrees F, place your washed herbs in a single layer on each dray and ... wait. Drying herbs varies from one hour to several, depending on the herbage used.

Or, set your oven to its lowest possible setting - some offer "keep warm", or "proofing," settings that peg the temperature around 110 degrees F. Plan on anywhere from 3-4 hours to overnight. Stir herbs often for even dehydration.

Microwave drying is possible for some sturdy-leafed herbs like parsley, but you don't want to cook them! Use a single-layer method on a paper towel and check every 15-30 seconds until dry about 2-3 minutes.

Store in airtight containers.

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