You don’t have to be a gourmet cook to use fresh herbs. It just takes having them on hand and remembering to use them. Growing your own herbs is a great way to make this a reality because there is little to no waste. Rather than buying a package from the store and trying to use it all before it spoils, you simply cut what you need as you need it.
Try these methods for preserving herbs so you can enjoy the fresh flavors all year long.
Chop clean herbs, place in ice cube trays, fill with water and freeze. When needed, remove herb ice cubes and drop into hot cooking liquid. You can also wrap bunches of fresh herbs in foil or plastic wrap and freeze them for several weeks. Some discoloration may occur.
Dry herbs by hanging bundles upside down in a warm, dry area. Heat, moisture and light rob herbs of flavor. If you choose to dry herbs, be sure to mark the date on the container. They can be kept for about a year.
Herb vinegars have a long shelf life and can be used in vinaigrettes and marinades or to add zest to cooked vegetables. There are many recipes for flavorful combinations such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme; tarragon and garlic; dill, garlic and dried red peppers; pineapple sage, ginger, cranberries and garlic; pineapple sage, spearmint and lemon thyme; and lemon thyme and sage to name more than a few.
Keeping a little spot in your yard for an herb garden is traditional thinking. Herbs come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and textures and are very attractive plants that will enhance your flowerbeds and container gardens. Dark purple basil or tri-color sage will add a touch of drama to any annual planting, while thyme makes a great border for a flowerbed or vegetable garden.
It has been shown that mint, parsley, sage, rosemary and garlic tend to repel some insects and make great companion plants for vulnerable vegetables. To the contrary, hyssop, balm, dill and thyme are herbs that will attract bees, which will help pollinate your plants.
Whether planting herbs for decorative purposes, aromatherapy or just to flavor your dinner, the rewards are limitless.