| August/September 2004


Leah A. Zeldes

CHICAGO, Illinois—We’re at the height of the herbal harvest season. While individual herbs come into their peak at different periods, late summer is when most of my herbs are at their best for long-term preservation. As herbs begin to flower, the essential oils providing their scent and flavor reach their highest potency. Thus it’s the best time to harvest herbs for later use. Although I prolong the peak period by pinching off flower heads or cutting back plants, I also begin my serious harvesting and preserving now.

Washed herbs take longer to dry, and their flavor is diluted in freezing or cooking, but sometimes washing is necessary to remove insects or soil. If you must wash them, rinse quickly in cool water, being careful not to bruise the herbs. Shake off any water and then spread the plants on towels for an hour to dry thoroughly.

Freezing is one of the easiest preservation methods for culinary herbs, and compared to other preservation methods, frozen herbs taste the most like fresh herbs.

Herbs that freeze well include chervil, chives, coriander, garlic chives, mint, nasturtium, rosemary, sage, sorrel and tarragon. Frozen fresh herbs keep for two to four months.

To freeze herbs, remove the stems, chop any large leaves and spread the herbs on a jelly-roll pan lined with waxed paper or foil. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

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