Fresh herbs from the garden are really something great. Anyone who only knows herbal mixtures from the supermarket has absolutely missed something. Herbs taste good and they have many important ingredients. Even in medicine, more herbs are being used again. Herbs usually don’t take up much space. They even thrive on the window sill, no problem on the balcony. After harvesting, you don’t have to use the fresh herbs immediately, you can simply dry them or freeze them. Here’s how to do it!
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In addition to garden herbs, there are also many wild herbs. If you walk through nature with open eyes, you can find all sorts of things there. Now the “common city dweller” is often not familiar with the world of herbs. This can be remedied very quickly. You buy a book with lots of pictures and wander through nature far away from roads and traffic. Guided hikes are also carried out in almost every town for the purpose of spotting wild herbs. They are very interesting. I took part in it once last year. You can learn a lot.
Collecting herbs is not a problem. You should only take as many as you can handle. What is not used fresh can be preserved. Herbs can be dried, frozen, preserved in vinegar or oil, and preserved in other, more complicated ways. We are concerned here with the freezing and drying of the herbs. Not all herbs can be dried and not all are suitable for freezing. Read on to find out which herb is suitable for what and what needs to be considered.
For many people, only fresh herbs are the non plus ultra. However, since it is difficult to cultivate some all year round (after all, not everyone has a heated greenhouse or similar), it often makes sense to preserve herbs. This works in many ways.
Drying herbs is the most traditional way of preservation. But you can do all sorts of things wrong. Many want the stalks to dry quickly and lay or hang them in the sun. This is fundamentally wrong. Even the warm shed, where the sun is beating down on the roof and which reaches almost 50° C, is not a solution. Herbs like to dry in the air. Otherwise they dry out and then the aroma is gone. Temperatures above 42°C are generally considered harmful.
- Drying is suitable for all herbs that are also cooked, e.g. marjoram , oregano, thyme , mugwort, lovage
- Also dry herbs for salad dressings
- Harvest branches as long as possible
- wash gently and pat dry
- Sort out diseased plant parts
- Tie branches into small bundles (with twine or rubber band)
- Tie no more than 10 stems together!
- It makes sense to label the bundles.
- It is important not to mix the herb stalks. Dry each herb separately.
- Hang in a warm, dark, airy place, branches down.
- An airy attic is ideal.
- You need to hang 7 to 14 days.
- Lay out the leaves or flowers loosely in a single layer to dry
- Fine wire screens or thin fabrics stretched in a frame are well suited
- Newsprint is unsuitable because the printer’s ink is harmful
- Do not move plants with essential oils while they are drying
- Otherwise the valuable components evaporate
- best kept in an opaque container
- Don’t forget the label
- crushed herbs lose a lot of their good aroma
- Leave the bundle of herbs whole and only chop them up when you use them.
- Dried herbs will keep for about a year
- Borage is not suitable for drying.
Dry herbs in the oven or microwave
If you have no patience or no space, you can also dry herbs faster. Use the convection function in the oven and set it to 50°C. In a short time, the water content of the herbs drops from 85 to 15 percent. This intensifies the aroma. These herbs should be dosed a little more sparingly. As already written above, many herbs lose large parts of their aroma at temperatures above 42°C. So the method is not ideal. It is favorable for roots, because they start to rot quite easily or are attacked by pests. The roots should be split, this makes drying easier.
I would refrain from drying in the microwave. It’s possible, but it’s going too fast, the temperatures are too high. There is not much left that is worth keeping and using.
Drying in the drying machine/dehydrator
The dehydrator is ideal for roots, leaves or fruit. Due to the strong air circulation, the contents dry very quickly. It is important not to set the temperature too high.
Freezing herbs is a good thing because most of the good stuff stays intact. Unfortunately, thawed herbs no longer look particularly attractive, so they are no longer suitable for decoration. The aromas, which are mostly important, are well preserved. Herbs that are frozen in ice cube molds are ideal for dosing. Here you can also mix and freeze herbs. Add some water to the container and you have ready-to-cook ice-herb cubes.
Freezing is usually the gentlest method of preservation. It is particularly ideal for parsley and dill, which lose most of their content when dried. It is not so favorable with lemon balm and peppermint. The sooner the herbs go into the freezer after harvest, the better it is.
- Chives, dill, chervil, parsley, and other species with soft leaves and sprouts are better for freezing.
- Flat leaf parsley has more flavor after freezing than curly parsley.
- Wash fresh herbs and pat dry. I also wash here, because unlike drying, it doesn’t bother me if the herbs aren’t completely dry.
- Finely chop on a wooden board.
- Freeze chopped herbs in smaller portions, for example in an ice cube tray. You add some water to it.
- The cubes can be added to the food in portions when cooking.
- You can also freeze whole bouquets of herbs and then only take out what you need at the moment.
- Don’t chop the mint, but freeze the leaves whole. If chopped, they lose their aroma.
- Use frozen herbs. If left to thaw, the melting ice crystals break down the cell walls and release the essential oils. The herbs have already lost all aroma before they could even begin their task.
- Basil is not suitable for freezing. It becomes brownish and tasteless, all flavor is gone.
- Marjoram is also not really suitable. It is better to dry the herb.
Alternative – pickling in vinegar or oil
Many herbs pickled in oil or vinegar result in interesting spicy notes. Dill, tarragon and basil vinegar, for example, are delicious. Lemon balm and other herbs can also be put to good use. Basil, oregano, thyme, sage and other labiates are also suitable for cooking oil. This type of preservation is very simple. Put the herbs in a bottle and cover it completely with the vinegar or oil. You should use a good wine or fruit vinegar or cold-pressed oil. For the vinegar mixture, it is best to use the herbs whole. That just looks good. For the oil extract, on the other hand, they are better crushed, so they release their valuable ingredients better. A translucent vessel is used for oil, which is then placed in the sun. After just three weeks, the ingredients are released into the vinegar or oil. However, it has to be shaken vigorously on a regular basis. The oil should be filtered before use.
Herbs should not be missing in any household. They are often the “icing on the cake”. Fresh herbs from the garden are unsurpassed, as are fresh wild herbs that you collect yourself. If you have too many of them, it makes sense to preserve them so that you can still use them in the winter. Freezing and drying are two good ways to keep herbs safe. Both should be done correctly so that the valuable aroma in the herbs is preserved. Not all types of herbs are suitable for both types of preservation. Some are better frozen, some are better dried. Basil is not suitable for either. The leaves are better for making pesto. Otherwise, the right method can be found for every herb.