How to preserve fresh herbs

Fresh herbs can be dried or frozen for use during fall, winter and spring.

Wondering what to do with your fresh herbs in the garden as summer time quickly transitions to fall? Sharing the herbs with family and friends is one option. Another option is to preserve the herbs for use during the fall and winter, there are a couple of easy ways to do so. 

Before preserving herbs, clean the herbs first by rinsing with cool water and shaking to get rid of extra moisture. Most herbs can be easily dried at room temperature, in the oven, in a dehydrator or in a microwave. Herbs are done drying when they crumble easily and the stems break when bent. 

How to dry herbs at room temperature

Tie small clumps of herbs together and hang upside down in a warm, well-ventilated location such as a porch, attic or in a camper. You can enclose the herbs in a paper bag with openings for air circulation to keep them free of dust and other pollutants. If the weather is very humid, this method may not work well and your herbs could become moldy. Check your herbs to make sure they are drying and not molding. If the herbs become moldy, they must be thrown away. 

How to oven dry herbs

Oven drying is as simple as placing the herbs on a rack in the oven overnight. Lay the herbs on a piece of paper towel and cover with another sheet of paper towel. Use just the pilot light for a gas oven or with the light on for an electric oven for the heat source. Leave to dry overnight. 

How to dry herbs in a dehydrator

Herbs dry quickly in a dehydrator. Use the dehydrator set at 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the herbs on a single layer on the dehydrator tray. Herbs can take between one and four hours to dry. 

Keep dried herbs in airtight containers and store in a cool, dry dark place to protect color and fragrance. 

How to preserve herbs by freezing

Michigan State University Extension also recommends freezing fresh herbs. Chop the fresh herbs or leave whole depending on your preference. Place the herbs in a freezer quality bag in small quantities or leave whole, mark the bag(s) with contents and date. Remove what you need at a time and return the remainder to the freezer. 

An alternate method is to freeze chopped fresh herbs in small quantities in an ice cube tray filled with water. Place the chopped herbs into the water in the tray. After the herb/water cubes are frozen, remove them from the ice cube tray and place in a freezer bag. Remove one or more cubes at a time as needed and drop the cube with the herbs into soups, stews and sauces as you are cooking your recipe. 

Visit Michigan Fresh to find information on growing and using fresh produce.  

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