Once your herb garden starts producing fresh herbs, you want to be sure to prune and harvest herbs from the plants regularly. This ensures the plants continue to produce and provide fresh herbs to use. It’s important to have a plan for storing fresh herbs from your garden until you are ready to use them, so they don’t go to waste.
You have a few choices available and what you decide will partly depend on which herbs you’re storing and how long you want them to last.
Storing Your Fresh Cut Herbs
Storage in the fridge
An easy way to store some herbs for a short period of time is in the fridge. Place your fresh herbs on top of a piece of paper towel, fold the paper towel and put it inside a zipper bag. Gently press and close the bag and store it in a refrigerator bin where you can adjust the humidity and temperature levels. This works especially well for rosemary and thyme, but I’ve also stored fresh chives this way.
A lot of fresh cut herbs will rot and go bad very quickly when you put them in the fridge. For these herbs it’s better to skip the refrigeration method and go for countertop or freezer storage.
Storage on the countertop
Just like fresh picked flowers, you can store your herbs right on the counter in a glass jar or vase with a bit of water. Just snip the ends of the fresh herbs and add about an inch of water before placing the stems in. This works well for herbs like basil, cilantro, oregano and parsley. This is a great method for basil in particular, because basil tends to turn black very quickly if you put it in the fridge.
There are also plenty of fancy herb keepers available online and in stores these days. You’ll find pods, specialty bags, and a variety of snap shut containers all designed to keep your herbs their absolute freshest all the time.
Storage in the freezer
Sometimes your herb plants produce so well you just have too much to use right away. If you don’t have time to dry your herbs and you’re not sure you’ll be able to use them up before they go bad, then storing them in the freezer might be a good option. I found this cool trick on Pinterest one day and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out well.
Chop your fresh herbs as you normally would and divide them into ice cube trays. Pour your favourite olive oil over top of the herbs, and pop the trays into the freezer. When the herb cubes are frozen solid you can pop them out and sort into individual freezer bags for long term storage. Just make sure you label them all before you walk away! Once they’re frozen in the olive oil they all start to look similar and it can be difficult to distinguish one herb from another.
Grab a herb cube to use when you’re cooking to easily add some extra flavour to your recipes. These herb cubes are ideal to use in soups, stews, stir fries and sauces.
Instead of using olive oil you can also freeze the herbs in plain water. In addition to the uses above you can add frozen herb ice cubes to drinks. Herbs like mint, lemon balm and lavender are particularly nice as frozen ice cubes in drinks.
Drying the herbs for storage
Dried herbs from your garden will still out-flavour most store bought brands and off-the-shelf herbs. You’ll also know without doubt that there were no unwanted preservatives added to them in the process.
Methods you can use to dry your fresh herbs include:
- using a dehydrator
- hanging herbs to dry
- drying herbs in the oven
- using a screen to dry herbs
- drying herbs in a microwave
Whatever you do, don’t forget to actually enjoy the herbs you grew and saved! They so often get shoved into a pantry or drift to the back of the refrigerator without being used. Experiment with them, add flavour to dishes you cook at home, and enjoy every single bite of your herb harvest.