Faced with an overabundance of herbs at the moment and don't want to let all of that time and attention, not to mention investment, go to waste? The end of summer marks the end of the growth season for several herbs. Here are a few ideas for utilizing your herb harvest now and preserving the fresh flavor and healthful benefits for months to come.
Add to Meals
The best way to utilize your herb harvest during peak season is to incorporate them at every meal. You really don't have to seek out special recipes. Keep it simple and just start tossing herbs into your everyday foods to see what works. They can be used in roasting, sauces, salads, dressings, baked goods, and even desserts and beverages, so get creative. For example, oregano topped scrambled eggs, lavender pancakes, and ice cream with chocolate chips and fresh mint, or strawberries and basil are just a few ways to pair herbs with everyday foods.
Dry storing herbs is a great way to stock your spice rack with homegrown goodness. To dry herbs, bundle them in small batches secured with twist ties that can easily be adjusted, and hang upside-down covered (you can use brown paper sandwich bags) in a warm, dry spot. When the leaves are fully dried, typically 7-10 days, remove stems and store in jars for later use. Herbs can also be oven dried using low heat (approx. 180 degrees) for about two hours, however this does tend to leach a bit of the flavor so adjust accordingly when cooking with the oven dried version.
Infuse Oil and Vinegar
Fresh herb infused olive oils and vinegars are a great way to use and preserve the fresh flavor. Simply fill a jar with your favorite herb or play with interesting combinations and then fill the jar with olive oil or vinegar to the top, ensuring all leaves are covered to prevent molding. Rosemary infused olive oil is a great base for sauces, dressings, and marinades while basil infused balsamic vinegar drizzled over grilled peaches is always a crowd pleaser.
Preserve in Salt or Sugar
To do this, layer fresh chopped herbs and salt/sugar, always starting and finishing with the salt or sugar, and cover with a lid. You can use these in a variety of recipes. Some favorites: mint and lavender infused sugar for mixing with iced tea or rosemary and thyme packed in salt for a dry rub.
Flavored Butters and Oil Cubes
Flavored butters and frozen herbed olive oil cubes are also great ways to kick up flavor in your cooking. To make the herb cubes, crush fresh herbs into ice trays and cover each section with olive oil. Freeze for a few hours and transfer to plastic bags to store frozen. The cubes can be used to sauté or add to recipes. Herbed butters are simple to make but add a lot of flavor and a touch of elegance to your menu. The easy route involves blending up fresh dill or rosemary or oregano with semi soft butter, but you can also start from scratch, churning the herbs with cream until you have butter. After mixing, form a log with the butter on a sheet of wax paper or parchment, wrap and refrigerate. You can even pipe individual pats of butter and refrigerate on wax paper for entertaining.