Photo by Mick Telkamp
Fresh herbs can be frozen using several methods.
Using fresh herbs straight from the garden is a summer pleasure even the most casual cook can appreciate. Sadly, like summer itself, it’s all too fleeting. Once picked, their shelf life can be extended a bit, but fresh herbs are decidedly “of the moment.” Drying herbs is probably the best known method for preserving summer herb surpluses, and may be the easiest way to make “hard” herbs like oregano, bay or rosemary last. However, drying doesn’t always capture the flavor as well as we’d like, and for herbs with a higher moisture content like mint, parsley or chives, dehydration may not be an effective option for preservation.
Freezing herbs is fast, easy and retains much of the taste, smell and nutrients found in fresh herbs. Although they aren’t always pretty and may not stand up to scrutiny for use in salads or as a garnish, frozen herbs will retain much of the flavor of fresh-picked herbs for use long after the growing season has ended.
Enjoying a surplus in the herb garden? Try these four strategies for freezing fresh herbs:
Many herbs can be simply frozen on the stem and stored in an airtight container. Left on the stem, hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, thyme, bay or sage can be spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer into any airtight container for freezer storage without clumping. To use, simply remove herbs a sprig at a time. Some herbs, like chives, can be chopped and frozen bare with little loss of flavor.
For long-term storage, tender herbs like mint, parsley and cilantro can be removed from their stems and frozen into ice cubes. Pack ice cube trays with chopped or whole leaf herbs, cover with water and pop into the freezer. Once frozen, cubes can be transferred into a Ziploc bag or other airtight container for easy, single-serve access.
Basil freezes best when first processed into pesto, but this practice also works well with other herbs like oregano or thyme to be used in soups, sauces or other dishes where oil is welcome. Remove stems and combine about a cup of fresh herbs with 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor. Pulse to blend, then transfer into ice cube trays. Once frozen, move cubes into an airtight container for long-term storage. To retain whole leaves, leaves may be removed from stems, placed in ice cube trays and then covered with oil to freeze.
Flat-leaf herbs like Italian parsley or sage can be compressed and rolled for space-efficient storage. Remove stems and loosely fill a Ziploc bag with the leaves. Tightly compress the leaves into the bottom of the bag, seal and roll the bag around the bundled herbs. Secure with rubber bands or twine and place in the freezer. Rolled herbs can then be sliced as needed for use in recipes.