How I Preserve The Garden Fresh Taste I Miss The Most

Kids love rituals, right?

Well, my daughter used to have one every night that when she was ready to go get her father to read a book before bed, she'd run down the hall yelling “WHAT’S THE LOW TONIGHT, DAD?”

And even more humorously she invariably answered her own question with something not-so-seasonal-anymore like “probably sixty-six”.

We've had a few nights already where Gene answered her question with “29”. 

Now that we've reached the second half of October, hard freezes threaten what is left of the garden.  

I love garden fresh taste so much! To me, nothing beats it!  It's so hard to think about it being gone...

And when I think about it, the garden fresh taste that I miss the most is fresh herbs.

Funnily, I don’t even have a favorite… I just love them all!

This year I’ve used more fresh herbs than before in my salad dressings, dips, soups, sauces and stir-fries. And the colder fall temperatures remind me of the impermanence of garden fresh taste. Driving me to do something to preserve it!

My efforts in past years at preserving fresh herbs have been lacking in inspiration so much that I find myself not using them much at all.

Last fall I learned an innovative way of freezing herbs to make them both easy to use AND satisfactory in preserving the MOST of the garden fresh herb flavor at the same time:

Freezing herbs in oil.

So if you love the taste of fresh herbs as much as I do, or if you find yourself with a little more than you can use fresh, try this technique out!


Why try freezing your own herbs for winter?

  • Makes cooking easier: Having herbs at the ready is really easy and makes me use them more.
  • Saves money: Fresh herbs from the store are expensive in the wintertime.
  • Saves time: Helps save trips to the store, I can just grab some frozen right in my kitchen.
  • Saves waste: Have you ever bought a bunch of herbs before and not used it all? This way you use just what you need at the time without worrying about some of it going to waste.


Here’s my new favorite way to freeze fresh herbs in oil

  1. chop herbs or pulse in a food processor
  2. add oil to coat
  3. freeze flat in a plastic bag
  4. break off just what you need and keep the rest in the freezer for later

Or you can use small ice cubes to freeze it in, if you prefer.  Just pop them out once they're frozen and store in an air tight container.




What herbs can you freeze in oil?

Here’s a partial list of what I consider important to me, because they’re harder to dry and would work well in applications like sauces, stews, and soups.

  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Basil


Ideas for how to use your frozen fresh herbs in oil:

  • Soups: can I remind you of how good the Carrot Cilantro Soup found here in our vegetable gallery is on a cold winter day??  Freeze your own cilantro and you won't have to run out to the store just for that!
  • Stir-fries:  Anything that will dress up a stir-fry, I love!  So frozen cilantro, parsley, or basil is perfect for doing just that!  Just add at the end and mix well!
  • Salad dressings:  Anyone else ADORE the flavor of fresh dill?  OMG, I believe that is the single most important ingredient I can add to a salad dressing to make my family and myself eat more veggies!  With my copious supply of frozen dill in oil, I can make my own homemade dressing whenever I want!
  • Dips: Similar to salad dressings above, dips excel with the addition of a little bit of fresh (or frozen in oil) herb.  Y-U-M!  


What the frozen-in-oil technique does NOT work for:

  • Fresh garnishes that won't be cooked.  Obviously, the fresh leafy texture of a fresh herb is not the same when blended with oil.  You would want to use truly fresh for that context.
  • See below for which herbs are best for drying rather than preserving frozen in oil.

Herbs that are easy for me to just hang to dry in my house:

  • Thyme
  • Summer savory
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram



What is your favorite for garden fresh flavor?

I would love to hear what YOUR favorite garden fresh flavor is that you can’t live without and how you preserve it! 


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Comments (5)

What does the oil do in freezing parsley, dill, basil etc vs just freezing the herbs whole in freezer bags? Thanks

I find that adding the oil helps retain quality for longer term storage, preventing "freezer burn".

I have a dehydrator so I preserve my herbs and left over tomatoes. They are wonderful through the winter or as long as they last. Easy to store in a glass jar to fit your need

Can't wait to try herbs in my dehydrator too! Thanks for the idea!

For years I dried all the herbs you mention as favorites to dry, as well as parsley, basil, and mint. I find the trick to successfully obtaining high quality dried herbs is 1) pick them on a good drying day (not excessively humid or raining) about 10 am in the morning when they are at peak; 2) prepare so they will dry quickly, e.g., chop a bunch of parsley (leaves in about 1/2" slices, stems 1/4-1/2"), for mint, basil, savory, marjoram, and oregano, raspberry leaves, remove whole leaves from stems and discard stems; and 3) spread them out on paper to dry them quickly at a low heat, taking no more than 2-3 days. They are dry enough when they crumble crisply in your hand, then I stored immediately in jars with tight fitting lids, in an unheated, dark pantry. I never had luck hanging herbs in my home, even with a wood stove--too much humidity or uneven drying. For years I had a gas stove with a pilot light that provided the perfect amount of heat. I spread the prepared herbs on opened up paper grocery bags and placed on racks in the oven. After that stove died, I started using a dehydrator with the herbs on parchment paper, which works considerably faster (a few hours) and I find requires monitoring and proper placement (distance from the heating element) so the herbs do not burn. I agree that dill and cilantro, and I would add chives, are best frozen. I just chop them on a cutting board --dill and chives about 3/8", cilantro about leaf size, put them immediately into plastic freezer bags, flatten and squeeze out the air, and freeze. It is true they do not work well as a garnish and they are subject to freezer burn (I find that brand makes a difference here with thicker plastic Ziploc brand giving better protection from freezer burn over the long winter). I add frozen dill to egg or tuna salad, chives to scrambled eggs, cilantro to soups. I tried freezing basil in oil, and liked using it in pesto, soup, and sauces. It does avoid the freezer burn problem, but I like having a non-oily alternative, too.