Ways of storing herbs + 3 must-try dressing recipes

When it comes to preserving the freshness and flavor of herbs, proper storage is key. Here are effective methods to keep your herbs vibrant and aromatic for longer periods. Before diving into these techniques, it's essential to prepare your herbs correctly to ensure they remain in prime condition.

Drying herbs

Preserving the essence and flavor of herbs through drying is an art that enhances their longevity and usability in cooking. Here's a comprehensive guide to ensure your herbs retain their aromatic qualities through effective drying methods. Before embarking on the drying process, it's crucial to prepare your herbs to ensure optimal results.

Pre-drying preparation:

  • Carefully sort through your herbs, washing them thoroughly and patting them dry with paper towels or a clean cloth. Avoid using newspapers as they might transfer ink to the herbs.
  • Remove any hard, damaged, or discolored stems and leaves, along with the roots.
  • Chop the herbs into segments no longer than 1,5-2 inches (4-5 cm) for uniform drying. Alternatively, you can bundle them and secure them with a string, depending on your chosen drying method.

Natural air-drying techniques

The success of air-drying herbs largely depends on warm, dry conditions. You can opt for either a horizontal or vertical setup for placing the herbs.

  • For horizontal drying, lay the herbs flat on parchment paper or a cotton cloth in a single layer. It's important to turn them several times throughout the day for even drying.
  • Vertical drying involves hanging small bunches of herbs by their stems. Keep them out of direct sunlight and consider covering them with cheesecloth to protect from dust and insects. Ensure there's at least a ten-centimeter gap between each bunch for adequate air flow. Ideal locations include balconies, porches, attics, or even a sunny windowsill.
  • Avoid starting the drying process if the temperature is below 25 degrees Celsius or if humidity is high, as the herbs may rot. Conversely, temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius can cause discoloration and loss of valuable nutrients.

Oven drying method

  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the herbs in a layer about two centimeters thick. Cover with another sheet of parchment.
  • Set the oven to 40 degrees Celsius, leaving the door slightly ajar to allow for air circulation.
  • After 50-60 minutes, increase the temperature by 10 degrees.

Oven dehydration takes between two to four hours. This method is a quick and efficient way to dry herbs if natural sunlight or a dehydrator is not available.

Using an electric dehydrator

Electric dehydrators are user-friendly and perfect for seasonal herb drying. Spread the herbs in a thin layer across the trays and set the temperature between 40 to 45 degrees Celsius.

Drying times vary from two to six hours, depending on the herb volume. Rotate the trays hourly to ensure even drying.

Freezing herbs

Preserving the fresh taste of summer has never been easier with freezing herbs. This method is ideal for maintaining the vibrant flavor and color of your favorite herbs, ensuring they're ready to enhance your dishes whenever needed. 

Start by handpicking the freshest herbs, ensuring they are free from any signs of wilting or discoloration. The next crucial step involves thoroughly washing your herbs under cold water to remove any residual dirt or tiny unwelcome guests, followed by diligently drying them to avoid ice crystal formation during freezing, which can negatively impact their texture and taste.

Chopping the herbs into small pieces not only makes them more convenient to use directly from the freezer but also saves valuable freezer space. For those who prefer, leaving the herbs whole is perfectly fine, especially if they're intended for flavoring broths or making herbal infusions. When it comes to packaging, portioning the herbs into small, recipe-friendly amounts ensures you have the perfect quantity for your cooking needs without any waste. You can opt for small freezer bags for compact storage or freeze individual portions in an ice cube tray, optionally topped with water or olive oil, for easy use.

Labeling each package with the herb type and freezing date helps keep your freezer organized and ensures you use the oldest stock first. By laying the bags or herb cubes flat in the freezer, you'll maximize space and maintain order in your frozen herb library. This simple yet effective freezing process locks in the freshness and essence of your herbs, making them a convenient addition to soups, stews, marinades, and more, bringing a burst of summer flavor to your meals all year long.

Dry salting technique

This technique, ideal for keeping the vibrant flavors of herbs throughout the seasons, requires minimal preparation and materials. Begin by selecting tender, young herbs, ensuring they're meticulously sorted to remove any debris or damaged parts. After a thorough wash, pat the herbs dry, then coarsely chop them before embarking on the salting process.

For an effective preservation, mix approximately 8.8 ounces (250gr) of salt with 2.2 pounds (1k) of your prepared herbs. The key to this method lies in the blending of salt and herbs, which should then be firmly packed into either glass jars or wooden containers. This packing process is crucial as it encourages the herbs to release their natural juices, initiating the preservation process. Once packed, leave the container at room temperature for 48 hours, allowing the salt to fully penetrate and preserve the herbs. After this period, top off the containers with the remaining mixture, ensuring there's no space left.

Worries about over-salting should be set aside; the higher salt content actually guarantees better preservation. Plus, any excess salt can easily be rinsed off before use. Smaller containers are recommended for this technique as they ensure a denser packing of the herbs, resulting in a superior preserved product.

This method not only extends the shelf life of your herbs but also maintains their essence and aroma, ready to be rehydrated and used in your favorite dishes throughout the year.

Recipes for dressings if there are a lot of greens

Embark on a culinary adventure with these three exquisite green herb dressings, each offering a unique burst of flavor to elevate your dishes. Whether you're drizzling over grilled meats or enhancing your favorite pasta, these dressings are sure to impress.

Zesty lemon and herb dressing  

Ingredients include the juice of one lemon, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of capers, 2-3 anchovies, 2-3 cloves of garlic, fresh parsley, green onions, with salt and pepper to taste.  

To prepare, start by squeezing the juice from the lemon. Finely chop the fresh herbs, anchovies, capers, and garlic. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, whisking in the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper according to your preference. This vibrant dressing serves as an excellent condiment or dipping sauce for meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, and seamlessly complements seafood and pasta dishes.

Spicy green chili and garlic sauce  

You'll need a head of garlic, a green chili pepper, fresh cilantro and parsley, dried oregano, 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, with salt and black pepper to taste.  

Begin by rinsing and drying the herbs. Peel the garlic cloves and halve the chili pepper, removing the seeds. Place all ingredients in a blender, adding salt, spices, oil, vinegar, and a splash of boiling water. Blend until smooth. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before serving alongside grilled meats or poultry for an added kick.

Classic basil pesto 

Gather 2 ounces (50 gr) of fresh basil, 2 ounces (50 gr) of Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons of pine nuts, about 1/2 cup of olive oil, and 2 cloves of garlic.  

Wash the basil and pat dry. Roughly chop the garlic cloves. Grate the Parmesan cheese. Combine all the ingredients in a blender until you achieve a smooth consistency. This classic pesto is perfect as a pasta dressing, a spread for bruschetta, or to enhance sandwiches.

Mastering the art of storing herbs is an invaluable skill for any culinary enthusiast or home cook. By employing these methods, you can reduce waste, save money, and have a year-round supply of your favorite herbs. From enhancing your cooking with the rich taste of preserved basil to adding a burst of freshness with frozen parsley, the possibilities are endless. Embracing these storage techniques will not only elevate your culinary creations but also deepen your appreciation for the wonders of herb gardening and the flavors they bring to our plates.