Hardy herbs like rosemary can often be picked throughout Winter but others will need to be cut and stored before the end of the growing season if you want to use them throughout the colder months.
Air-drying is the easiest way to preserve your herbs effectively for up to a year.
When trimming your herbs from your plant, try to avoid cutting back more than a third at one time unless you plan on replacing it.
Once you’ve gathered your clippings, wash them gently under cool running water with as little pressure as possible to avoid any bruising or crushing. Dislodge any grass, insects or soil by gently massaging the herbs as you go. At this point, you can pick off spoiled or yellowed leaves as they’ve already lost their flavour.
Separate your herbs into small bunches so they get plenty of air flow between the branches and secure the ends with twine or an elastic band. You can then hang them upside down to air-dry.
Check them regularly to see when they’re crumbly enough to store.
Alternatively, you can place them in a brown paper bag. Punch or cut holes in the bag for ventilation and label the bag with the name of the herb. Make sure the herbs are not crowded inside before securing with string and hanging to dry upside down in a warm, airy room. Check them regularly to see when they’re crumbly enough to store.
Once the leaves are completely dry, remove them from the stem and store them in an air-tight jar, labelled with the date and name of the herb.
Herbs with smaller leaves such as thyme might benefit from drying on a rack or a sheet of newspaper for two days or when crunchy to the touch.
Fleshy herbs with high moisture content and succulent leaves such as basil and parsley are best dried using a dehydrator, since the air in most climates isn’t quite arid enough.
Herbs you can air-dry include:
Basil | Dill | Fennel | Mint | Oregano | Parsley | Rosemary | Sage | Thyme | Tarragon | Savory | Lovage
For the best flavour retention, freezing is your best option. It preserves the essential oils in your herbs, and it’s the oils that give them their distinctive flavour. Wash them gently with water and pat dry. Spread your sprigs out equally on a lined baking tray and freeze for 8 hours, you can then pop them into zip-seal freezer bags to save space and store for up to 12 months.
You can also make recipe-ready herb ice cubes. Chop up your herbs, add them into the tray slots until each cube is approximately half full, top with water and freeze. This storage method is a quick and convenient way to add flavour into your tasty Winter soups and stews since the water content won’t affect the taste.
Spread the individual leaves onto a paper towel and cover with another layer over the top. Microwave for between one and three minutes, checking them continuously and rearranging to ensure they’re drying evenly. If you have the time, air-drying is preferable since this method can diminish the oil content somewhat, the same goes for oven-drying.
Set your oven to the lowest temperature and leave the door slightly ajar. Setting the temperature too high will slightly cook your herbs, causing them to lose flavour and colour.
Place your herbs on a lined baking tray with ample room around them to dry evenly. Place on the lowest shelf of your oven and turn the herbs over halfway through drying time (after around 30 minutes). Check on the herbs after 45 minutes and if they’re crispy and dry, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray on the counter. Transfer them into an air-tight container or plastic zipper bag to store.
Leave a portion of butter to soften at room temperature. Chop up your favourite herbs and mash into the butter using the back of a fork. Wrap the herb butter mix in greaseproof paper, twist the ends to secure and store in the fridge for two weeks / freeze for up to six months. Delicious!