Fresh herbs are tasty to cook with, but they're not always in season. To preserve herbs for year-round use, you can easily dry or freeze them. Farmers' Almanac, the original sustainable living guide, offers these tips:
Drying Fresh Herbs
Good for drying: bay leaves, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and savory.
Tie a small bunch together at the stems and hang upside down from a wire or rack in a warm, dry room out of direct sunlight. Herbs should dry in one to two weeks.
Dried herbs are much stronger than fresh ones, so adjust the amounts when cooking. A good rule of thumb is to use one-third to one-half the amount called for. Dried herbs may also lose their flavor after one year.
For quicker dried herbs, use the oven or microwave. Spread the herbs out on a tray and place it in an oven set at 100 degrees F. "Bake" about three hours. Turn the herbs each hour for even drying. For microwaves, use low power and cook for about three minutes. (You may have to experiment to find the optimum time.)
Store in a clean glass jar with a tight lid when herbs are completely dried.
Good for freezing: dill, parsley, basil, chives, and mint.
Freezing is another method of preserving herbs, especially those used in soups or stews. It has many advantages over drying and it's easier.
Freezing doesn't affect the herb's flavor so you can use the same amount as if it was fresh. Homemade pesto made with fresh basil can be frozen and kept for later cooking.
Wash and dry herbs thoroughly before freezing.
Freeze herbs whole or place chopped herbs in an ice cube tray. First, line the tray with nonstick spray and half-fill cups with water. Then place the chopped herbs in the water.
They may float, but don't worry about it. After the ice is almost frozen, remove the trays from the freezer and fill the cups completely with water. Return to the freezer.
Once herb cubes are frozen solid, remove them and store in airtight plastic bags or containers, or freeze in jars with tight-fitting lids. Label bags or containers with type of herb and current date.
Using Herbs in the Kitchen
Try these popular herbs in the following dishes:
Italian, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisine
Seafood dishes, especially salmon
Vegetables (carrots, green beans, spinach, potatoes)
Egg and cheese dishes (omelets and quiches)
Meats, especially ham
Butter sauces (tartar, béarnaise)
Additional cooking tips can be found in the 2009 Farmers' Almanac, on sale Aug. 26. You can get tips on sustainable living from the experts at www.FarmersAlmanac.com.