The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 9, 2013

Freezing an easy way to preserve summer herb bounty

Q: I am growing fresh herbs for the first time and with the wet, hot weather we have been having, they are growing like crazy. What is the best way to preserve them?

A: Summertime is the best time to capture the freshest flavors, with an abundance of local produce items from the supermarket as well as your backyard gardens. But the trick is capturing those summer flavors and making them last year-round. That’s where freezing comes in.

Most people have experience with frozen fruits and vegetables. Did you know that you can freeze some herbs, too?

Drying herbs is much more common, but certain herbs like basil, chives, marjoram and thyme can be frozen, too. In fact, some of these herbs will preserve better by freezing than drying.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

- First, start with the freshest herbs immediately after harvesting.

- Next, be sure to clean the herb with running water, then drain. No need to blanch.

- Then, chop the fresh herb, and mix with a small amount of water. This step works well in a food processor. Freeze the herb/water mixture in ice cube trays.

- Remove the herbs from the trays and store in a sealed plastic bag with all the air removed.

- Remember to label the plastic bag with the date and contents.

- Store at 0 degrees and use within eight to 12 months for the best quality.

Frozen herbs can easily be added to dishes throughout the year. Add basil to pesto, pasta sauce or pizza. Add chives to mashed potatoes or homemade veggie dip. Add marjoram to a meat marinade. Add thyme to roasted vegetables.

The benefit of adding herbs to cooking is that you can maximize flavor while limiting the need for salt, which makes the recipe healthier. Herbs also offer antioxidants, another health benefit. Preserving herbs from the summer months will allow you to savor the freshest flavors, save money and improve the nutritional quality of your cooking year-round.

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