How to store fresh herbs for a taste of summer all year

(Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Wondering what to do with that abundance of garden-fresh herbs you've carefully tended all summer long?

No worries. You can enjoy fresh herbs year-round by drying or freezing. They won't have quite the quality of fresh-picked ones, but they can still bring a kiss of sunshine to many dishes -- even in the doldrums of winter.

Here a rundown on using and storing fresh herbs:



USING: Use 1 tablespoon fresh herbs if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon dried. Add the fresh herbs near the end of cooking so they don't lose their flavor.

Mix fresh chopped herbs with mayonnaise for an herb spread. Or toss fresh herbs in salads. You can also add fresh chopped herbs to olive oil and serve with fresh baguettes.

REFRIGERATOR STORING: Store basil loosely covered with plastic wrap, with the stems in water. Keep most other herbs unwashed in a plastic sealable bag with the air squeezed out.

Or wash and dry them and trim the stem ends. Place the herb bunch in a tall glass canning jar with a screw-on lid or a plastic container. Add water to cover the stems by at least 1 inch; do not cover the leaves with water. Cover tightly with the lid.

Change the water every couple of days. The herbs should keep for seven to 10 days. Remove and discard any leaves that wilt or darken.

LONG-TERM STORAGE: Here are some recommendations from the Michigan State University Extension and the Free Press Test Kitchen:

Bag-drying: Tie herbs by the stems, in a small bunch. Place them inside paper bags with the leaves down. Tie a string around the top of each bag. Cut several holes in the sides and hang the bag in a warm area with good air circulation until the herbs have completely dried.

Do not use a microwave oven to dry herbs -- they can burn. Dehydrators work well; follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Freezing: Wash, drain, pat them dry and spread them on a flat tray to freeze. When they are firm, pack the herbs in freezer-safe bags. Use them straight from the freezer.

Place chopped herbs in ice cube trays and cover them with water or chicken or vegetable stock. Freeze until firm and transfer the herb ice cubes to freezer-safe bags or containers. Add the ice cubes to stews, soups or sauces. Or thaw and add the herbs to cooked dishes that call for fresh herbs.

With basil, I find it's best to make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays or divide and store it in freezer quality containers.