A friend of mine mentioned the other day that she wanted to start growing her own herbs because it would be cheaper than buying them every time she needs fresh herbs for a dish. For example, if a recipe calls for a sprig of rosemary, she will buy the tiny box of rosemary from the grocery store (these usually run about $3-$5 depending on the herb), use a sprig, and end up throwing the rest out because it goes bad before she uses it again. This got me thinking of ways to use up or preserve those fresh herbs.
I have been growing and drying my own herbs for years. Drying herbs is very easy and does not require any special equipment. All you do is bunch your herbs together and secure with a rubber band, then hang them upside down in a dark, dry place (closets work really well) and forget about them for a couple of weeks.
This bunch of sage is already dried, but you can see the rubber band at the top securing it together.
I usually dry a bunch of different herbs at a time and hang them from one of those cheap hangers you get from the dry cleaner. I just twist the top apart, thread the rubber banded herbs onto the hanger, and hang them in my basement.
You can easily untwist these by hand.
Dried lime balm, pineapple sage, thyme, anise, and sage.
When I started this post, I only had a few ideas bouncing around in my head, but as I kept writing, the ideas kept coming. I’ve compiled a list of links and pictures of ways to use fresh and dried herbs. It’s a mix of my own ideas and links around the internet.
1. Make tea.
Fancy herbal teas can cost you a pretty penny. Why not dry those herbs and make your own teas? Simply boil water, add herbs, and steep for about 10 minutes. You could use fresh herbs to make tea, too. Nothing is stopping you!
2. Freeze fresh herbs.
When you think of preserving herbs, drying automatically comes to mind. However, you can also freeze them in their natural state for use throughout the year. There are three ways you can do this.
– The first is to freeze them whole. Spread individual leaves or sprigs onto a cookie sheet and freeze.
– The second is to use ice cube trays. Scoop 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs into each ice cube space and cover halfway with water and freeze. The herbs will float to the top, don’t worry. This is why you fill the tray only halfway at first. When frozen, cover the rest of the way with water and freeze again.
– The third is to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil. This idea from The Gardner’s Eden has been floating around Pinterest for a while, but I thought it was worth mentioning in case folks hadn’t seen it. I think it is a great idea. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!
3. Make you own potpourri.
Once your herbs are dried, you can put them in a sash and use them to scent drawers or closets. You can also spread potpourri into a decorative bowl or dish and use around your home. If you’d like, you can mix in other scents. Add cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, or dried citrus fruits. This idea works especially well with anise, rosemary, and lavender.
4. Infuse things.
You can infuse olive oil, vinegar, or butter. These would make great gifts for any occasion. If you get fancy jars, your olive oil and vinegar can double as kitchen decor.
5. Brighten up your home or office with a fresh herb bouquet.
The smell of fresh herbs seeps through the air as you work and has a very calming effect. Also, how cute would this be for a housewarming present or a hostess gift?
Rosemary, sage, and oregano. The scent is amazing!
6. Use fresh or dried herbs as gift toppers.
I did this for a kitchen themed bridal shower and used fresh rosemary and cinnamon sticks. I thought I was a genius when I came up with the idea, but it is already all over the internet. Sigh. Maya*Made has some great photos in her post on herbs as gift toppers.
7. Make your own spice blends, rubs, or mixes.
Here are some ideas that come to mind. Use equal parts of dried herbs. Be careful when you get into the powders as they tend to be strong. You can experiment, but in the case of powders less is more.
- Italian herb blend: Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Sage
- Scarborough Fair blend: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme
- Steak/chicken rub: Oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika
- Fajita mix: Oregano, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper
8. Make flavored simple syrups. Use in cocktails, mocktails, and sweet treats.
I found this awesome step-by-step tutorial from Oh My Veggies for basil simple syrup, but you could use this method for any herb. She also lists some uses for basil simple syrup to get your creative juices flowing.
9. Press herbs, frame, and use as artwork.
We all probably pressed leaves at some point for a school project, right? Why not do the same with herbs? I’ve pressed many leaves and flowers in my day using the basic method I was taught during the 80’s. I’m sure it will work the same for herbs. Lay herbs flat between two pieces of newspaper. Place a few heavy books on them and wait about 2-3 weeks for the herbs to dry in their pressed shape. They can then be framed and hung in a kitchen.
Any other ideas? Please share!