It’s that time of year when our gardens are overflowing with summer’s delights. Each year we grow so many herbs that I try to think of creative uses so they don’t go to waste. I decided to compile a list in case any of you find yourself in the same situation. Even if you don’t grow your own herbs but you’ve bought a bunch and find that your recipe only calls for a few tablespoons, these ideas are for you too!
10 Uses for Fresh Herbs
- Pesto! Every summer I make huge batches of pesto that lasts us through much of the winter. This is my recipe and I use these great baby food storage containers to freeze it in ¼ cup servings. Basil is traditionally the herb used for pesto, but you can play around and make parsley or cilantro pesto as well.
- Dry or Freeze Herbs. To dry herbs, you simply hang them in small bunches tied together with kitchen twine. This works best in a cool room, such as a pantry or laundry room. Once the leaves are dry and crumbly, you can store them in an herb jar. I personally dry more delicate herbs such as chamomile, lavender, parsley, cilantro, and basil. For the herbs with tough stems, such as thyme, rosemary and oregano, I will simply freeze these herbs in sandwich size bags, sliding my finger along the stem to remove the frozen herb, chopping and using as needed.
- Make Fresh Herbal Tea or Sun Tea. I love making fresh mint tea, such as in this recipe. My favorite fresh herb teas are chamomile, lavender, mint, and lemongrass. If you have more time (translation: all day!) then make a sun tea. Fill a mason jar half way with the herb of your choice, fill the jar with water, set outside in a sunny spot and let the sun do her magic.
- Make herb-infused ice. Simply dice herbs and place them in an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze. Pop the cubes out and store them in large freezer bags. To add flavor to a glass of water or sparking water, try adding some mint or basil ice, for example. You can also use cubes of herbs such as thyme, oregano, rosemary or sage in soups, stews, or roasts. For this use, you can add vegetable or chicken broth instead of water.
- Add to Salads. I love when I am eating a salad at a restaurant and get a surprise “pop” of a fresh herb, such as dill or parsley. You can make any green salad more exciting with the addition of small amounts of any chopped herb. Or try some of our recipes: Our Summer Jicama Salad (uses fresh cilantro), Jeweled Endive & Corn Salad (uses fresh parsley) or Potato & Egg Salad (uses fresh dill).
- Add to Smoothies. Play around with your morning smoothie. A small amount of fresh herb can add a lot of flavor. What combo sounds good to you? Cilantro with pineapple and mango? Mint with strawberry? Basil with blackberry? They all sound good to me!
- Marinade Meats & Dress Salads. Salad dressings are probably the most common use of herbs and many salad dressings can double as a wonderful marinade for grilled meats and veggies. If I make a batch of dressing for salads and we’ve had enough, I will use it as a marinade for meat by adding everything to a large freezer bag (for example, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and the dressing/marinade) and freeze. Defrost by moving from freezer to fridge 1-2 days prior to cooking. Here are some recipes to start with:
Balsamic Rosemary Marinade
- Get Crafty. You can use herbs for various projects. My daughter and I have made many sachets with dried lavender and they smell wonderfully for years! You can also use herbs in a flower press or make fun designs with herbs on solar paper and then use them to make cards and gifts.
- Make Herb Infused Oils. Use different herbs to make infused olive oils that can be drizzled on soups, over salads, or used in salad dressing recipes. Of course, the most common use of flavored oils is as a dip for a good bread! See this article which explains how to make infused oils and which herbs are best for a cold-infusion or heated-infusion method.
- Give an Herbal Bouquet to a Friend. When invited for dinner, bring a friend an assorted herbal bouquet in a simple mason jar. Cut herbs can be used in any of the above ways or will last in a jar of water for 5-7 days like flowers.