The winds are blowing, the evenings are cool, and the end of season is in sight. But before the weather turns, it’s time to pick the final herb bouquets to dry, freeze and store for winter. Of course, using them fresh while they last is wonderful too!
Some herbs are better frozen than dried because the drying process reduces flavour. A typical freezing method is chopping herbs, adding a bit of water, and placing them in ice cube trays. They can be tossed into a soup, sauce, or pasta. I also chop herbs like mint and cilantro in amounts required for favorite recipes. One or two tablespoons of the herbs are placed in tiny mini paper bags I found at Michael’s. I freeze sage whole in wax paper as shown above and then placed in a small freezer bag. Since I love sage with squash and sweet potatoes, I will often freeze the cooked vegetables with sage and brown butter for use later in the season.
I have a dehydrator, but I don’t bother with it for herbs. They dry well using less energy-consuming methods. For smaller quantities I put bunches in a paper bag with air holes created using a hole punch. Each bag is labelled and tied to my portable laundry rack. Pictured above are various herbs that will be used for home-made Herbes de Provence. For larger quantities such as those I use for teas (mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, bergamot), I hang them on my main laundry room rack (until there’s no more room for my husband’s shirts!). Drying can also be done in the oven simply by placing herb leaves on a screen, perforated pizza disk or a cookie sheet. Turn on the oven light and leave the herbs to dry overnight. Small amounts can be dried quickly in the microwave. Thyme (my most used herb), basil, parsley, savoury, tarragon, lavender, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, bay laurel and chives are all suitable for drying. If you are drying herbs, thoroughly shake and dust them off but don’t rinse them. The water can contribute to mold growth.
Capturing the end of season herbs is every cook’s delight. Take pesto for example. Use up basil, parsley & chives in a traditional pestos. Get creative with a sage-parsley and toasted walnut pesto. Freeze the pesto. Quick fry sage as an accompaniment to a pre-dinner drink or atop of a sage-butter pasta. Use herbs for a stuffing for pork, poultry, peppers, or cabbage. For a casual dinner, whip up brown butter scrambled eggs with herbs and an end of season green salad. The sky’s the limit.
Finally, it’s time to bring in the herbs indoors. I bring in parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and bay laurel and put them in a west-facing window. As the sun diminishes, I add a small grow light on a timer to keep the herbs going until spring.
The blessings of the autumn herbs are wonderful. Dry them, freeze them, use them fresh or use them in preserves, and bring them in for the winter! Keep the faith until spring!
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