How to not waste fresh herbs - whether you've bought them or grown them yourself, there's always the dilemma of what to do with your surplus.
Do you see a recipe that calls for a few sprigs and think twice about it, because you'll 'only waste the herbs' that are left from the bunch you buy, or think 'those herb plants I buy from the supermarket don't last'?
You're not alone - I've bought a bunch of herbs and they've gone slimy in the fridge or the supermarket plant has keeled over and there's nothing I can do to revive it. I get cross with myself because I really do hate waste and I'm upset that something has died.
Is it worth it?
Yes - if you mean is it worth:
If you can get two or three uses out of something that you used to get one use out of and it's not 'costing' you much in the way of time or energy, then it's worth it.
You can preserve your herbs for later use by various methods:
That's just for starters :-)
Some people do claim success in immediately potting on their supermarket herbs into 'proper' compost.
Let me show you a photo of a pot of supermarket thyme I bought.
I used three sprigs in a figs with honey recipe and was going to use the rest of it later that week to make a cough syrup.
It just expired on me in a few days - started to go brown, then mould grew and that was it.
There were about six small sprigs which I cut off and put in a poly bag for my freezer box. It'll be plenty for my next fig bake or Homity Pie or similar, but certainly not enough to make a cough syrup!
It's not a huge effort to freeze whole herbs in bags. I have a polythene box in the freezer that I put all my *labelled* bags of frozen herbs in. I keep a list on my noticeboard of what's there - but I do a quick search before I go shopping as well.
You can use this simple method to freeze most leafy herbs that you are going to use chopped. Cilantro, basil, parsley, thyme - not woody stemmed herbs like rosemary. You need to strip the leaves off the stems before you freeze them.
If you want to make a pesto, salsa verde or coulis, then freezing whole really is the best way to go.
It takes only a bit of forward planning to dry herbs in the oven - next time you have the oven on, use the residual heat OR if you have a gas oven with a pilot, then you can dry them any time.
Microwave drying herbs takes a minute or two.
How about storing them? I have little plastic pots that I use for my 'bits' of herbs. Keep them in a dark cupboard. These are 'fresh' dried herbs and I know they've got no pesticides on them.
Next time you buy a bunch of fresh herbs, use what you need for the recipe and choose one of these methods of saving the rest for another
You can also make something with the herbs other than the recipe you originally bought them for:
You'll need a general guideline as to what herb goes with what - i.e., chicken, beef, lamb etc and that information's here - it's not definitive, you can mix and match any way you like.
When I say 'leftover' I mean 'surplus to the recipe you've bought them for'.
You can freeze everything to use at a later date of course, but you can also make things to use in recipes later. Half a bulb of garlic can be peeled and dropped into a pot of olive oil for instance. It'll look lovely and people will think you're a real domestic earth mother!
Garlic - it will keep in the fridge for around two weeks or sometimes longer. But you can make oil, butter, chop and freeze (although there's a risk that the freezer might be overwhelmed by the smell) dehydrate and make powder or preserve whole cloves in oil.
Basil - make pesto, freeze in oil, preserve whole leaves in salt.
You get the idea - just have fun and try not to waste anything if you can help it.
If you've got loads of herbs growing in your garden, then you'll need to harvest them and store them for out of season use.
Choose how you're going to store them and make sure you have the supplies you'll need to hand. Pick a day when you've got time to harvest and process. The fresher they are, the better the preserved herb will be.
How much time you'll need will depend on which method you're going to use to preserve them. Putting whole leaves into poly bags for the freezer will take a few minutes. Dehydrating in the oven means co-ordinating the harvest with a time you're going to have finished using the oven and then have a couple of hours to keep checking how they're getting on.
Dehydrating by machine will take several hours. Air drying will be several days, so don't start it two days before you go on vacation.
You get the idea :-)