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Storing your garden herbs

Many ingenious methods are available for storing herbs from your Chicago garden. You watched them growing in profusion all summer long. There was no need to store them during the growing season because you simply harvested only what you needed. Now you want to begin storing them for winter while they are at the peak of their flavor and aroma. Trying all the methods available will help you get the most from your herbs.

Gardeners and gardening
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Prepare your herbs after you harvest them. Remove discolored leaves and dead sprigs. Brush the leaves to remove dust and insects, if necessary. If you decide you must wash them, wash them in a colander and remove excess water by spreading them on paper or cloth towels.

Herbs used for salads can be stored in oils and vinegar. Those added in cooking can be chopped and whipped into butter and frozen. Whole sprigs can be stored in plastic bags and freeze dried. No need to defrost them, just crumble them into your food. If frozen in water, just add them to your recipe as part of the recipe’s liquid. To store herbs in glass jars, choose a drying method that seems best to you and wait until they are completely dehydrated. Then crumble the dried herbs and store in jars.

Think about how you want to use your herbs because each method serves a different purpose. Not only that but each method has distinct adaptations. Drying herbs can be done in a cool dark place, in a dehydrator, in the sun, in a microwave oven, in a freezer or using a dehumidifier. Herbs can be frozen in containers of water, in butter or in plastic bags. Using oils and vinegars to store herbs has the additional plus of flavoring the oil and the vinegar.

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