Keep herbs

Home-grown herbs – nothing tastier! Growing your own herbs is very popular right now. You always do need them and they are just much more flavoursome than fresh herbs you buy. Most freshly picked herbs are best kept in the fridge (except for basil and very fine leaved mint) or freezer, or are dried for storage. There’s a few handy tips here below about storing herbs. Certainly good to know if you have a big crop, and great to have them in the winter!

Washing your herbs

First things first: If you rinse your herbs off, they will keep longer than when still unwashed. Most dirt and any bacteria present will be easily rinsed off then, so they keep better and won’t spoil quite so quickly. Dab your herbs carefully dry after rinsing them off – use kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. This will absorb any extra moisture which could cause the foliage to go mouldy or slimy.

Storing herbs in the fridge

Stiff stalks of herb like rosemary, thyme and mint should be kept on a slightly damp piece of kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. Roll them carefully up and keep in a plastic bag (or a sealable container) in the bottom of the fridge. Your herbs will keep perfectly for up to three weeks in this manner! Add stems of fine foliage herbs like parsley, coriander or dill to a glass of water and stand this in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag (essential to keep them good). This will definitely extend their freshness. Remove all discoloured or damaged, wilted foliage beforehand. Your freshly picked home-grown herbs will last at least two weeks longer like this in the fridge. Keep removing all wilted stems and leaves meanwhile, and refresh the water in the glass if it turns dark.

Basil is a bit strange as far as storing it goes. This aromatic herb really doesn’t like the cold so just stand your lovely smelling picked basil in a half glass of water in a light spot, out of direct sunlight. Delicate mint leaves (so, not the tougher variety) need the same kind of treatment.

Drying herbs

If you want to use your own crop of herbs any time, even in the winter, you could try drying them. The faster you dry them, the more aroma will be preserved in the dried herb.

There are various methods for drying herbs:
Drying herbs in the oven: Turn your oven on at the very lowest heat and lay the rinsed and patted dry, herb twigs on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave things to dry until brittle and crumbly (no longer than 12 hours). Strip the twigs off the leaves and store your dried herbs in a clean, dry and airtight pot.

Using the microwave to dry your herbs: Strip all the leaves from the herb twigs and lay these on a piece of kitchen roll. Times will vary per type of herb but approx. 4 minutes at 600 W in a microwave should be sufficient.

Air drying your herbs: Tie your herbs up into a bunch and hang them up to dry in the summer (warm and dry weather), in a well ventilated room for about two weeks (shouldn’t take longer). Beware damp weather – it won’t be possible to dry them this way then.

Freezing your herbs

If you want to keep your herbs for even longer, most freshly picked herbs will freeze well and will keep for about six months in the freezer. Rinse off your herbs, dab them gently dry with kitchen roll then put them in a resealable plastic, freezer bag. Once fully frozen, they can be pulverised before use – no more having to snip them up! Other freezing methods: You can make ice cubes with your herbs! Chop your chosen herb fine and add to an ice cube mold. Pour in the water (or you could use oil), and freeze. Any time you need to use some of the herb, just knock out a couple of herbal ice cubes and add to your dish during cooking.

Make a delicious herb butter with your fresh herbs. Mix finely chopped herbs and garlic through whipped butter. Roll a ‘snake’ of butter in greaseproof paper and let it stiffen up in the fridge. Slice portions off the hardened roll and store in a resealable container in the freezer. Allow to defrost in the fridge before actually using. Delicious over a steak, or corn on the cob – or use with French bread!