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Gardening Tip: Herb Paste

Gardening Tip: Preserving Herb Harvest

by Elyse V

Now is the time to take stock of your garden and figure out what to do with the excess before it goes bad. Even though this is done throughout the growing season, the batches tends to get larger now as you prepare for the dreaded first frost. I grow a lot of herbs and I cook with them daily. There is nothing like adding fresh herbs to lift a dish from good to great. Today I’m sharing a gardening tip that will allow you to enjoy your fresh herbs long past the growing season. I also do this whenever I have an excessive amount of herbs that I can’t use before they spoil. It’s very simple actually – you can preserve your herbs (and all their freshness) by making herb paste.

GARDENING TIP: MAKE HERB PASTE TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS

I’ve tried various ways of preserving herbs. I tried them both naturally and with a dehydrator. I had problems with both. With the dehydrator I found they lost most if not all of their flavour. I tried hanging herbs but they grew mould no matter where I put them.  

I tried the ice cube method. In this method you chop your herbs and press them into ice cube trays with either a tiny bit of water or oil. I didn’t like the results with this method either. My cubes tended to get frost on them even in an air tight container or freezer bag. Not to mention the cube determined how much you’re using. When you want only half a cube grating, cutting, or shaving them proved difficult. So with the dehydrating, hanging and ice cube experience behind me, I tried making a paste. I haven’t looked back since.  

I’ve made paste with basil, parsley, chives, and thyme – you name it. It works for a variety of herbs and never disappoints. I keep each type of herb paste labelled in separate airtight containers and I enjoy them throughout the year.

HOW TO MAKE HERB PASTE:

  1. Cut your herbs and wipe every leaf with a damp paper towel. Make sure that you remove all dirt. Using a damp cloth ensures the leaves don’t get too wet which makes them harder to dry and work with. 
  2. Remove the leaves from the stems and remove any blemishes. Place the good leaves in a strainer or bowl. 
  3. Make sure the leaves are dry. If needed wipe with a dry paper towel or place in salad spinner depending how wet the leaves were to start.
  4. Put about 2 cups of dry leaves in your food processor at a time. You don’t want to over pack the food processor. You’re better off doing multiple batches so you get a consistent product. 
  5. Add in oil. I use a canola and olive oil mix, but use the oil of your choice. For 2 cups of herb start with about 1/4 cup of oil.
  6. Add in oil as needed so herbs don’t get stuck on the side and become an even paste. 
  7. Pour into a glass mason jar or an air tight container but leave a little room at the top for a layer of oil. This preserves the herb. If you don’t top it with a layer of oil, the paste will go mouldy. and you will have to throw it out. 
  8. Label the container with what it is and the month/year so you can keep track of your product. 
  9. Place in the fridge. You can keep a container of herbs in your fridge for up to a year.
  10. Every time you take herbs out of the container you need to make sure it is topped with oil. 

WHAT CAN YOU USE THIS FOR?

Everything. You now have fresh herbs that retain all their flavour to put in sauces, marinades, salad dressings, rubs and to season meat. This is a great and economical way to have fresh herbs all year around.

With basil paste, in particular, if you mix it with garlic and Parmesan cheese you have pesto

I love having all my favourite herbs on hand year round just as fresh as they were when I picked them. Do you have aa favourite gardening tip to share? How do you preserve your herbs or other harvest items? 

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