If you’re anything like us, you have a problem keeping your plants alive long enough to enjoy the delicious sustenance they can provide. This is a bummer, because buying fresh herbs at the grocery store or farmers’ market can really add up. Yes, we know a package of fresh basil is typically no more than two dollars. But for a vegan on a budget, it’s hard to justify spending any sort of money on a few leaves we're going to use to season a soup.
Whether you’re gifted in the garden and have herbs up to your eyeballs, or you’re a stickler at the supermarket and want to stretch your dollar as far as possible, there are a few ways you can preserve your herbs and keep them fresh for months to come. What’s the trick? We're glad you asked. There are three easy ways you can preserve your fresh herbs so you can enjoy the tastes of summer all winter long.
Freezing fresh herbs
Freezing is the best option if you want to use fresh herbs in your cooking a few months down the road. There are a few different ways to do this. The simplest way is to spread whole or chopped leaves on a baking sheet, freeze overnight, and then put them in a sealed container in the freezer for storage.
You can also snip the leaves into small pieces and pack them into an ice cube tray. Fill it about three quarters of the way with water, and freeze. The next day, top it off with water and freeze again. When the tray is frozen, pop the cubes into a sealed container and keep in the freezer. You can then drop the frozen cubes into soups, sauces, and stews for fresh flavor later on.
Making herb-flavored vinegar
If you’re already thinking about what to get your friends and family for the holidays, why not make something from scratch? Herb-flavored vinegar is a cheap and easy way to preserve fresh herbs for the vegan on a budget. All you need is some pretty glass bottles and cork stoppers to fit them, good-quality vinegar, and your favorite fresh herbs.
Here’s how you do it. Wash and pat dry your choice of fresh herbs and slide the whole leaves into the bottles. Then fill the bottles with room-temperature vinegar, insert the cork, and store in a cool, dark place. The flavoring process will take about four to six weeks. Tip: You may want to use some peeled garlic cloves and/or small peppers to flavor the vinegar, too. Whatever combination you decide to make, a good rule of thumb is to use a half-cup of herbs per two cups of vinegar.
Drying fresh herbs
This method works best for preserving herbs like oregano, thyme, marjoram, and sage. Gather your herbs and tie the stems together using twine or a rubber band. If you rinse them make sure to pat them dry thoroughly to prevent mildew. Hang the herbs upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight. The leaves will crumble in about one to four weeks. When they do, store the herbs in an airtight container for up to a year.