Fresh herbs can bring such rich flavor to any dish (or drink!). I’m so grateful for the abundance of herbs that grow at the Farm—lavender, fennel, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, and more! And while I am fortunate enough to be able to harvest what I need when I need it, sometimes I get carried away and find myself with more cut herbs in my fridge than I can use. To avoid throwing them away (even if it’s into the compost), I use a variety of strategies to save my herbs for later.
Dry: Drying is a great way to process and preserve large volumes of herbs. Here at the Farm, we dry herbs either on drying screens or in the Dome in hanging bunches—sometimes our plants need a haircut/good prune and we find ourselves with more cuttings that we can use or distribute quickly. Air drying works best in warm, dry, dark (ish) places with good air flow for about two weeks (once crumbly). If you’re not blessed with the dry heat of Claremont and find yourself somewhere more humid, you can also dry your herbs in the oven: spread herbs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for a few hours at 150°F with the door cracked. And if you’re so fortunate to have a dehydrator, you can use it to dry your herbs as well. You can store your dried herbs in an airtight jar, bag, or container for up to a year!
Freeze: The freezer is a friend! I love to sauté veggies in olive oil and fresh herbs, so if I have extra herbs, I chop them and freeze them in olive oil. I use ice trays to portion out the olive oil so I can just pop out a cube of oil and when I’m ready to cook. When I’m out of ice cube trays, I just add my extra herbs to the Tupperware of other veggie scraps in my freezer that I turn into vegetable stock (another great way to divert food waste!). Freezing can extend the shelf life to several months.
Regrow: If you don’t have an entire farm or garden of fresh herbs at your disposal, you can grow your own from cuttings! Not only can plants photosynthesize, but they can also dedifferentiate and regrow into a new plant (their cells are totipotent). In theory, you can regrow plants from just a piece of stem or leaf (very difficult to pull off in practice, but possible nonetheless). Most herbs regrow easily from cuttings, and if you have root growth hormone, using it will definitely help the process move along. With the help of root growth hormone, I’ve easily propagated woodier herbs like lavender and rosemary: take a 4” cutting, strip off the lower inch or two of leaves, cut right below a node, dip in root growth hormone, plant in a pot, and keep your cutting watered. You can also encourage roots to grow by keeping your cuttings in fresh water for several weeks. Check out this more detailed guide to regrowing ten different herbs.
Happy growing, cooking, and eating!