Growing herbs is a fantastic and frugal way to add beauty in your garden and flavor in your kitchen. One of the best things about growing herbs is how easy they are to grow and how prolific most herbs are. Even experienced cooks may find themselves with an excess of herbs. Here’s a few things to do with extra herbs.
Using Fresh Herbs – What To Do with Extra Herbs While They’re Fresh
It’s fast and easy to process fresh herbs into flavorful salt.
Herbs readily lend their flavor to oils. Once the oil is infused, it can be stored for months and used in cooking, in salad dressing or as a dip for fresh bread.
There’s nothing like a dollop of herb butter melting on a hot steak! Or use it to rub down the bird when making Roast Chicken. There are almost infinite, delicious combinations of herbs. Some of my favorites include thyme/rosemary, “poultry butter” with sage, thyme, and rosemary and fennel/dill (so good on salmon!)
Finding ways to store herbs for later is my favorite thing to do with extra herbs. Nothing beats the flavor of homegrown herbs in the middle of winter!
Drying herbs is an old and venerable method of storage for use later. While dried herbs aren’t quite as flavorful as fresh herbs, they can retain much of their original flavor if dried and stored with care. A bonus of drying herbs is making up your own personal herb blends, like Italian or poultry seasoning. Rosemary, thyme, sage, dill, oregano, mint and tarragon are all very easy to dry and hold onto their flavor nicely.
Freezing herbs doesn’t get as much press as drying, but it’s a great way to quickly preserve their freshness. Basil, oregano, mint and parsley, in particular, are well-suited for the freezer and keep much more of their flavor than drying. Just pull the individual leaves off the stems and throw into a freezer bag or sealed container. This is an especially great trick in the middle of summer when basil grows rapidly and needs to be pinched back constantly. Just throw those extra leaves into the freezer bag and use them later. Note that the texture will suffer once thawed but, so this is best for herbs that will be mixed into other ingredients.
EXTRUDE ESSENTIAL OILS
It’s very easy to freeze or dry herbs and requires almost no special equipment or knowledge. The same cannot be said for extruding essential oils from herbs. The process requires a specialized still and other equipment, which can be pricey. If you find yourself buying essential oils frequently, however, it may be worth the cost to grow herbs and extract the oil at home.
Which method of using or preserving herbs you choose will depend on how you expect to use the herbs down the line.
Frozen herbs are great for:
- using in sauces
- recipes that require large quantities, like pesto
- as an add-in for hearty, cooked dishes, like meatloaf
- flavoring stock
Dried herbs work well for:
- most recipes, since it’s very easy to convert quantities between fresh and dried
- seasoning to be added after cooking
- a sprinkled topping for things like pizza or pasta
- herbal tea
- any application in which the herbs need to be very finely cut
- dry rubs or batters