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« 5 Ways to Preserve and Store Fresh Eggs | Main | Growing Strawberries »
Thursday
Apr112013

Preserving Culinary Herbs

The most important thing to remember when harvesting and preserving culinary herbs from your garden is that it is the essential oils in the plant are actually what gives the herb its flavor, fragrance, and any health benefits. Because the essential oil concentration is highest in the morning, it’s best to harvest on a dry day before the early morning dew has evaporated. The oil content is higher in an herb plant before flowering, and most herb gardeners agree it’s best to harvest before the plant flowers. As plants mature, the oils that produce flavor and aroma become less intense. 

Herbs should be dried at cooler temperatures than fruits and vegetables in order to protect their delicate flavors. Dry them in a shaded area with good air circulation, or even in a dehydrator.  Spread herb leaves in a thin layer over drying trays, or in a dehydrator set at 95 degrees or lower, until the leaves crumble to the touch.

The time tested method of hanging bundled herb stalks upside down in a shaded, ventilated area is also effective, albeit with some loss of flavor because of the extended drying time.

Storage jars or containers should be as small as possible, and filled up to exclude air, and maximize flavor and aroma. If stored in a cabinet or pantry, dried herbs can keep their flavor for several months, but should be tossed in the compost bin after a year has passed.

Common Kitchen Garden Herbs & Uses

Tarragon              tomato dishes, salads, vinegar
Rosemary            salads, vegetables, lamb dishes
Oregano              spaghetti sauce, pork, wild game, tomato dishes
Sage                      poultry, cheese, omelets, sausages
Basil                      soups, stews, tomato dishes     
Celery                   salads, casseroles, soups
Bay                         soups, stews, spaghetti sauce
Marjoram            sausages, stews, lamb dishes
Chives                  casseroles, salads, omelets
Thyme                  onion soup, meatloaf, lamb dishes
Chervil                 cheese dishes, salads, eggs
Dill                         pickles, stews, cabbage
Fennel                  candies, rolls, cookies, soups, casseroles
Garlic                    omelets, chili, Italian foods
Anise                    sweet rolls, cookie batter, salads
Parsley                 sauces, soups, vegetables
Cumin                   bread dough, sausages, cheese spread
Mint                      lemonade, roast lamb, mint jelly
Savory                  bean dishes, stuffing
Chilies                  stews, soups

 

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