Little Big Kitchen: Drying & Saving Herbs

22 Nov

Today I’m going to show you the best way for storing cut herbs. No, I’m not talking about one of those herb saver dealies, but you can certainly go out and spend 15-20 bucks on that if it makes you feel better. That might be worth it to you, but besides the fact that it costs money it’s just another thing that serves a single purpose that you’ll inevitably have to clean and store and care for for the rest of your life, or until you chuck it in the garbage. Wow, I really sound like a grump about those things. I’m not, really.  If the situation presented itself I’d love to try it. I do love me a kitchen gadget after all, but the fact is I don’t have the budget to go bandying about on something that can just as easily be remedied by some scissors, a tall glass, and some water. So, here’s the thrifty way to preserve your freshly cut herbs:

1. First, take your bunch of herbs (here we have Thai basil from the Farmer’s Market), and snip off the ends. Just like with cut flowers, snipping the ends every few days helps ensure a crisp, clean stem to help circulate the water better.

2. Fill a glass part way up with water and plunk the herbs in. It will smell really, really lovely, as that is the nature of herbs, but press on anyway. Make sure the stems are well submerged in the water, or else the top of your herbs will dry out and get crispy. (If some do get crispy, don’t panic: just avoid them in favor for leaves that still have life in them.)

3. Place in the refrigerator. Ta-da! They will keep well for several days, and up to a week or more depending on the freshness of the herbs and the type of herb you are saving. You may need to add water or change it out  if it becomes cloudy or murky, but other than that you are good to go.

I buy some sort of herbs every week at the grocery store or farmer’s market. My herb garden isn’t large enough to supply every herb I need, but inevitably when I buy herbs this way I always have a ton left over. In an effort to cut waste and boost nutrition I’ve been adding the leftover chopped herbs to my food on a daily basis. Almost everything you eat can benefit from some chopped Italian parsley (which is usually what I have leftover), so I’ve been adding it to eggs, sandwiches, salads,  over chicken, in soups, whatever. At the end of the week, I’m usually left with a bunch of slimy stems that can be tossed straight in the compost bin.

Last week I harvested some fresh herbs from my garden and dried them in the oven. I got a lot of requests for tutorials on twitter, and you are going to be surprised at how easy it is:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees F.

2. Line a baking tray with parchment.

3. Place clean, dry herbs on try.

4. Dry for 2-4 hours.

You’ll know your herbs are done when they crackle and flake into bits when crumbled. Delicate leaves will take closer to two hours while stems and heartier plants will take nearer to four. The thing you’ll notice is that they are still very freshly green when dried this way as opposed to dried herbs you’ll by from the store.

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One Response to “Little Big Kitchen: Drying & Saving Herbs”

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