Summer Herbs


I love this time of year thanks to abundance of fresh herbs everywhere – at the local grocery store, farmer’s market and people’s own backyard.

But you can only grow so much basil or parsley or thyme. And then what?

Everyone has a favourite method of preserving their herbs, be they air dried (my favourite), dried in the microwave, washed, dried and placed in plastic and into the freezer or place in an inch of water in your favourite jar and place directly in the fridge.

I have favourite herbs that I include in my cooking – just a handful. But that’s all you really need:

This is what I do with my go-to herbs:

PARSLEY: I buy a couple of bunches, wash and dry in a salad spinner. I then finely chop them in my small KitchenAid chopper. I place in a medium-size freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, flatten and place in the freezer. Whenever I need parsley for cooking, I break off a chunk and use. Lasts two months in my freezer nicely.

You can do the same with cilantro.

BASIL: Fresh is best when making a tomato and bocconcini salad, or a fresh summer sauce. But I like to get mileage out of my basil. I remove leaves from stalks, wash and spin dry thoroughly. I then lay them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to air dry several days. I then crumble and place in plastic herb jars I get from the dollar store.

Hanging your basil: When I see a large bunch of fresh basil I get weak in the knees. I wrap an elastic band at the base, and hang on a hook near my sink. The leaves dry naturally – I just reach out and crumble a bunch in my hands before using in any of my dishes.

OREGANO: Given the plant is so delicate, I check for any dirt or residue, brush off carefully. I then place the whole branches on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to dry thoroughly. Once dried, I place in my chopper and mince. You can follow the same procedure for thyme.

SAGE: I love sage for its romance and mysticism. People burn sage to balance the energy in their homes. I love sage for its delicate earthy contribution to savoury roasts, like chicken and potatoes. I air dry the leaves but don’t crush them once they are thoroughly dried through. I place them in small freezer bags and keep them in my spice drawer. You can also take fresh sage leaves, roll them in an absorbent paper,  place them in a small freezer bag and keep in the freezer until you need.

ROSEMARY: Fresh rosemary is a gift from heaven. I keep fresh rosemary wrapped in absorbent paper and in a freezer bag in my fridge (if I know I’ll be using in a week) or in the fridge. Alternatively, you can air dry your rosemary on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until completely dried. You can then remove from stalks, crumble and keep either in a sandwich bag or a plastic container.

MICROWAVING HERBS:  If you want to speed up the drying process, place in single file your dried herbs of choice on absorbent paper. Cover with more paper. Microwave on high 1-2 minutes, checking to make sure they are not curling around edges. Allow to dry another few minutes before placing in sandwich bags or plastic bottles.

SHELF LIFE FOR HERBS AND SPICES: The good news is dried herbs and spices have a good long shelf life: Ground spices keep their flavour for about 2 2-1/2 years, while whole spices (think balls of nutmeg) are good for up to four years. Leafy herbs that have been dried are good for up to two years. After that, the flavours become flat, almost distant. If you buy in bulk – which I do – I only buy a couple of ounces, or what I need.