The Herbivores’ Harvest
As the end of summer draws near I want to share with you how to save your herbs for next season, in this fun little post I call the Herbivores’ Harvest.
As you can see my Vertical Pallet Herb Garden really grew quite prolifically this season, and this is after several cuttings throughout the growing season. As the end of summer starts to draw near, I know that I need to start to thin back the bountiful harvest and cut the best of the best to preserve them for future use.
As you can see, I did not cut my herbs down to stumps, that was not the idea at all. Think of it as giving them a really good hair cut for back to school, lol. I still want to continue to grow them for the remainder of the season and use them on an “as needed” basis. However, I do want to make sure that I do not lose all my lush beautiful crop that I have already grown in the heat.
I got to tell you, as I was cutting the fragrant beautiful herbs and placing them into my harvest bucket, I suddenly had a deep desire to do a table centerpiece out of herbs. I mean, just look at how lush and beautiful these are! Plus, some of the more exotic herbs, like the Thai Basil, have these beautiful purple flowers and when my pineapple sage blooms in the fall it will have gorgeous red blooms, so there is still some time. So don’t count me out on this topic just yet, I may still just decided to do it. However, for now I want to focus on actually preserving them so I can used them in my family recipes over the holidays. Having these lush home grown organic herbs in the dead of winter is such a luxury. So for now let me show the next best thing. One day I will have a greenhouse, mark my words!
Okay, so first thing is you want to take your bucket of herbs inside and separate them into bunches. This is important for two reasons. One, so you can make make sure to clean them properly, discarding any sticks, brown pieces or even dead pieces.
Secondly, this will help you to assess how much you have of each type of herb. Once you have them pre-sorted, which will make your life easier once they are wet, and the unsavory pieces removed from each pile. You will want to wash each pile individually. I used a colander or strainer and fruit and vegetable cleaner. I personally like the organic FIT wash, as is removes any dirt, possible mites or bugs that could be hiding under the tender leaves. I usually do several sets at one time. Spraying the herbs then lightly tossing to coat and allowing the spray to sit on the leaves for several minutes then rinsing.
Once the herbs have been washed, I allow them to air dry prior to batching for freezing, especially if they are going to be preserved in butter or oil. They must be completely dry. If they are slated for broth or water; you really do not have to worry about this step as much. For example, the Mint is the first item I processed since it will be frozen into large decorative ice cubes. This stores the mint perfectly for Mint Juleps or Mojitos, as well, and any other type of cocktail or punch. It also can be thawed down for making mint chutney or mint glaze; which is lovely on lamb or in a variety of desserts.
I also mentioned that you can preserve fresh herbs in broth. Another one of my favorites is a poultry mix which uses sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and oregano. The leaves are removed from the stems and placed into a smaller ice cube tray, as seen below.
Then the tray is filled with a organic chicken broth. This makes a perfect herb cube for Thanksgiving Day turkey prep, homemade chicken noodle soup or chicken pot pie bases. The size is also a perfect 1 Tablespoon measurement so it is easy to figure into recipes.
I also did an Italian mix in broth too; which lends itself nicely for a minestrone soup or Italian wedding soup. You can also add this mix of oregano, basil, and flat leaf parsley into a homemade spaghetti sauce too, and chicken broth would be just fine. Another one of my favorites is making specialty butter sauces, like this garlic chive butter sauce. It is super easy to make and is ideal for weeknight baked potatoes, easy bake garlic bread or even just to finish a steak.
While you are melting your butter down on the stove top, I find it takes 2 sticks of butter for one tray, again 1 tablespoon per cube, cut the herbs to place into the tray. Use a pair of kitchen sheers to fine chop your chives into small pieces. The sheers make quick and easy work of this step. Once your butter is melted down stir in 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic. Then pour butter mixture into the ice cube trays. The final option for freezing is to store your herbs in olive oil. This works especially well for herbs you plan to you use in sautéing dishing or possibly in a stir fry.
This particular combination is an Italian herb combination of organo, basil, rosemary, and parsley; which would be great for sautéing a vegetable medley, roasting a whole chicken, or even toasting a savory cheese bread in the oven.
Keep in mind the possibilities are endless and only limited by your own mind. In the tray below, I wanted to have a few specific herbs like just rosemary in olive oil for my rosemary chicken recipe. Also, a set of only Thai Basil in olive oil for my Basil fried rice. So I did a half cube tray for just a few of these specialty options.
Once you have your trays set, you want to freeze them over night so they are nice and solid before you try to remove the cubes for storage. The following day your can remove the individual cubes and place into handy labeled storage bags. I recommend using a butter knife to help you lift the cubes out of the trays, after you crack them lose. The broth, water and oil all come out pretty easily, while the butter may require and little more edge scraping to get a clean release, or a warm water dip.
So now you can stock up your freezer and just grab a cube or two based on your recipe requirements. This will help to supplement your fresh herb supply through the winter months, when they may be harder to find or just not look as fresh at your local markets.
Look how cute the super big mule cubes turned out for Juleps and Mojitos. Oh my, I have about a thousand party ideas just swirling around in my head with these beauties; and I have a ton more mint to freeze, so there will be no shortage on them either.
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