Fresh herbs have only one problem: they go bad eventually. Stop throwing them out with these 5 amazing uses for fresh herbs! Nothing is more disheartening than watching half of a $4.00 package of fresh thyme, sage, or rosemary turn brown in the fridge, or throwing out a bundle of mostly unused Italian parsley that turned to mush. Many people have started growing their own herbs to reduce cost, and if so might have even more extra herbs that need a home. These 5 tips can put all those extra herbs to good use and make life a little greener all around.
1. Dry fresh herbs for later use
Drying herbs is the simplest and easiest way to keep them from going bad. Most herbs can simply be hung by a string in a warm dry spot or even laid out on few paper towels on a cookie sheet. Harvest herbs at mid-morning, and remove any brown leaves or moisture before drying. Remember not to pile them or they can mold, and avoid placing them in direct sunlight as this can discolor them and remove flavor. If using the cookie sheet method, flip them once or twice a day to ensure they dry evenly and don’t mold on the down facing side.
I have so many extra herbs growing them hydroponically that I had to purchase a drying tower. There are tons of great “do it yourself” herb drying racks on Pinterest as well, but to dry a few extra herbs from a package bought at the grocery store a plate with a paper towel on it works wonders. For more great information on drying herbs check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s article on drying herbs.
2. Herbal teas and herbed broth
Enhance your tea with fresh or dried herbs! This is a great way to use up fresh herbs and is something often overlooked. Some personal favorites are “Scarborough Fair” tea, this contains parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme with a few black or green tea bags and maybe a cinnamon stick or a clove. This blend is both tasty and aromatic, it’s like drinking aromatherapy! Mint and chamomile are popular additions to many commercial herbal teas and work great if you have them as well.
If you are using dried herbs it is best to use a tea ball to contain the herbs, and of course if you are using a tea ball why not use loose leaf teas? Blending your own herbal teas and storing them for easy use with a tea ball other steeping device is a great way for the whole family to enjoy them. Glass jars or even resalable plastic containers work well for storing tea blends. A glass jar with your own herbal tea blend decorated for the season also makes a great homemade holiday gift idea!
Another variant of this is one of my staple beverages in the long northern winters, herbed broth. I boil my water with some fresh herbs or a tea ball full of dried herbs, again using the “Scarborough Fair” blend of my 4 favorites, then mix with a chicken or beef bouillon cube in a coffee mug and enjoy! Great when feeling under the weather or for chasing away the winter blues.
3. Compound butter and infused oil
One of my favorite uses for fresh herbs is making compound butter. Different combinations of herbs can be used for different recipes, like my favorite shrimp scampi recipe for instance. To make compound butter simply let butter stand at room temperature until it softens, then whisk in chopped herbs, garlic, ginger, or a favorite combination for a specific recipe. To portion it use a rubber spatula and put in ice cube trays and freeze. These can be stored in a bag or plastic container and pulled out when needed. This can also be done with olive oil by placing herbs in the trays and filling them with oil, then freezing.
Infusing oils is another way to capture the essence of herbs for later use in cooking. Herbs can be heated in oil and then cooled, strained and stored. When infusing herbs or garlic into oil remember to keep the heat low so the herbs don’t burn, and keep cooking times fairly short to keep oil from becoming bitter. Just under 5 minutes is usually enough to get a good flavor into your favorite cooking oil.
4. Infused drinking water
One of the biggest health trends of the summer is infused water. Taking various herbs, spices, veggies and fruits and placing them in a gallon of water in the refrigerator is a great way to keep hydrated and gain some other health benefits as well. Combinations such as rosemary and grapefruit, cucumber and parsley, or sage and raspberry are some of our household favorites, but there are hundreds of different ingredients and combinations. There are some great boards on Pinterest about infused water, and a search on Tumblr will net you many ideas as well.
5. Aromatherapy baths and bowls
Aside from all the culinary uses for herbs, there are great benefits to using them for aromatherapy. I love some rosemary and clove in a bowl of hot water on the kitchen table to relieve sinus congestion, or some sage and chamomile in a hot bath with some Epsom salts to soothe aching muscles and relax the mind. Herbs make a great addition to potpourri bowls or any aromatherapy session! The internet has lots of lists of medicinal herbs and their uses.
Learn all about growing your own herbs and find more great recipes and tips at my archive! Enjoy!
Sierra is a music lover, social media manager, and legend in her own mind. When she’s not performing internet awesomeness for multiple businesses including The Rainbow Hub she likes to cook, longboard, travel, camp, hike, and write. She currently makes her home in the high desert of northern Nevada. Openly transsexual, run-on sentence offender.