PRESERVING HERBS

Herbs for preserving should be harvested on a dry, sunny morning, after the dew has evaporated. To obtain maximum flavour & nutritional content, material for preserving needs to be at its very best. This will depend on the part of the plant that is required.

Leaves should be harvested just before the plant flowers.
Flowers are at their best when they have just opened.
Fruit should be just ripe.
Seed is ripe when it changes from green to brown. For seeds in pods, shake the stem. You will hear the seeds rattle when they are ripe.
Roots are at their best when the top growth of the plant has completely died back, in autumn or winter.

Drying
Herbs for drying should be harvested on a dry, sunny morning, after the dew has evaporated. Cut the stems just above ground level. Trim & discard any discoloured or damaged leaves. Tie into small bunches and hang in a dark, dry, airy place, or put them in a paper bag punched with holes, to eliminate light and dust. When the plant is completely dry, it will become brittle. Remove the leaves from the stems and store in airtight jars, in a dark place. To retain maximum flavour, it is best to store the leaves whole & crush, if necessary, just before using.

Freezing
Freezing is the best method for preserving the colour, flavour & nutritional content of herbs with soft, lush, green leaves, (eg. chives, dill, basil, mint, tarragon). Wash the herbs, if necessary, & shake dry. Freeze them in plastic bags, in bunches, on the
stem. There is no need to thaw before using, just add at the end of cooking.
Alternatively, chop the herbs finely, put them in ice-cube trays and top up with water. Flowers, especially borage, can be frozen in ice-cubes for adding to drinks.

Preserving in Oil/Vinegar
Herbs preserved in oil or vinegar are very useful for adding flavour to many dishes.

Herb Oils
Fill a wide-necked, sterilised jar with fresh herb, broken into pieces with your fingers. When the jar is as full as possible, cover with good quality olive, sunflower, safflower or almond oil, preferably organic. Put on a tight fitting lid. Stand the jar in a warm or sunny place, covering it with brown paper if it's in a sunny position. Shake at least once a day for 14 days. Strain and store out of direct light.
Suitable herbs - basil, garlic, fennel, lavender, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme.
Spices, chillies and orange or lemon peel can be added.

Herb Vinegars
Bruise the herb and fill a wide-necked jar. Top up with warm (not hot) wine or cider vinegar. Continue as for herb oils.
Suitable herbs - bay, chervil, dill, elderflower, garlic, fennel, lavender, mint, rosemary, tarragon, thyme. Spices, chillies and citrus rind can also be added.
Fruit vinegars are made by the same method. Roughly chop the fruit in a food processor first.
Suitable fruits - blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries.

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