How to freeze herbs

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One of my goals in my garden is to make salsa entirely from ingredients from my own garden.  In the past I have come close only requiring the purchase of a couple jalapeño peppers from the grocery store but this year with much effort and a strangely hot summer for the Pacific Northwest I have all the ingredients growing in my garden.  Though unfortunately the ingredient cilantro could be my elusive ingredient since hot weather means great growth then subsequent bolting.  My solution to this problem is successive planting and freezing herbs.

Now drying is also a viable option though I prefer freezing since many moist herbs can lead to mildew without the right equipment to dry efficiently.  Frozen herbs also maintain the same potency for several months in the freezer as fresh so no guessing on measurements of your frozen herbs.

There are actually a few different methods for freezing herbs, each of which depends on how you plan on using them later.

The first method is great for keeping the herbs texture and flavor intact.  The process is nearly identical to that of freezing berries.

Flash freezing herbs

  1. Pick the best freshest herbs you can find
  2. Wash and pat herbs dry
  3. Lay on layer of wax/parchment paper on cookie sheet
  4. Freeze overnight
  5. Place leaves in freezer bag(s), using a straw to suck out excess air

If you are planning on using your herbs in soups or stews, I would definitely recommend the ice cube method.

Ice cube tray method

  1. Pick the best freshest herbs you can find
  2. Wash and pat herbs dry
  3. Hand chop (or use food processor) leaves
  4. Put chopped pieces into ice cube trays and fill with water of stock
  5. Freeze overnight
  6. Place cubes in freezer bag(s), using a straw to suck out excess air.  You may also put the trays right into the freezer bag sucking out the air if you wish.

Note: Also try mint with a little extra water to add to drinks during the summer (or winter)

Now if you are planning on using your herbs for dishes that require oil such as Pesto with your Basil.  This is a great time to do a little up front preparation.

Ice cube tray method (with oil)

  1. Pick the best freshest herbs you can find
  2. Wash and pat herbs dry
  3. Add 1/3 cup of oil for each 2 cubs of herbs to food processor or blender
  4. Put chopped pieces into ice cube trays
  5. Freeze overnight
  6. Place cubes in freezer bag(s), using a straw to suck out excess air.  You may also put the trays right into the freezer bag sucking out the air if you wish.

Now in a few months you can add some parmesan and have some previously frozen pesto in the middle of winter.

Planting mint in your garden


If you happen to have a couple of brown thumbs and kill any plant you touch you may want to consider planting mint in your garden. These members of the mint family is so hardy that it can practically be planted anywhere and in many cases it can take over your garden without taking some precautions during your planting. Couple of low impact options is to grow it in a pot on your patio or even grow in a hanging basket and harvest the leaves as they grow over the side. If you wish to grow your mint at ground level you will need to create a root barrier to keep it from spreading over your whole garden. You start by digging a 12-18 inch hole and place your mint in a large plastic pot or lay down a plastic liner with drainage holes. One other option is to use an old 5 gallon bucket and give your mint a little more room to grow but you will need to dig a little deeper hole.

Now for picking your plant(s), if you want some peppermint for tea or that mojito in the middle of summer you will need to buy your plant from a nursery (unless you have a nice friend or neighbor to get a start from them) since peppermint is sterile so you will be unable to grow it from seed. Other mints such as spearmint can be started from seed but it will take a couple months until you can begin harvesting. I would definitely recommend buying as plants since they are usually inexpensive and a modest plant can become pretty established in just a few weeks. The one exception is if you want a species you may not be able to find in your area nursery, so seeds might be your only option.

So why grow mint in the first place. It has a great fragrance and many uses including refreshing your breath, deterring pests (mosquitoes, slugs, wasps, and ants), garnishes or major ingredient to your cold drinks. For me the primary reason was peppermint tea.

If you don’t think you like peppermint tea make sure you try the fresh version before you sign it off. Tea leaves are dried so they last longer if you want the best flavor best to use it fresh. There is no part of peppermint that can harm you so can break off a piece of mint (stem and all) and let it seep for 5 to 10 minutes. Not only is it a refreshing beverage that leaves your mouth with a nice clean taste but also can help with any stomach discomfort. If you want something with a little more flavor try this recipe:

Straight from the garden peppermint tea recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 peppermint leaves
  • 3 spearmint leaves
  • 3 lemon balm leaves

Directions:
Add leaves to one cup of boiling hot water. Let leaves seep for 10 minutes. Add honey or sugar if desired.

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