3 ways to reduce herb waste – without a freezer!

Filed in Blog by on June 3, 2011 11 Comments
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The herb pot at zero waste towers

The herb pot at zero waste towers

As you might remember, a few months ago we made the decision to live without a freezer.

It’s not the easiest thing to do as good use of a freezer can help reduce food waste and to be honest, once my runner beans start to produces kilos of green loveliness I might just go back to getting a small freezer for preserving foods.

However, the herbs are taking over the garden already and this week I decided to trim back the mint and chives. I have a patch of chives which have flowered, especially for the bees, but another patch we keep strictly manicured for our own culinary delight.

Any gardener will be aware that mint will take over the entire patch if you allow it to, so regular trimming and containing the roots is a must.

Here’s my 3 ways of preserving herbs and I’d love to hear yours!

Butter

There’s nothing quite so lovely, in my humble opinion, as herb butters. Garlic butter is traditional for slathering on French stick, but one of our favourites is mint and chive butter. To do this all you have to do is finely chop the herbs of your choice then mix them into softened butter. Adding a spoon of mint butter to new potatoes is heaven on a plate.

And of course, if you DO have a freezer, then you can make batches of herb butters for adding to meals throughout the year.

Chopped mint and chives ready for making herb butter

Chopped mint and chives ready for making herb butter

Throw the herbs into some sofened butter and mix it in with a fork

Throw the herbs into some sofened butter and mix it in with a fork

The finished product, keep refrigerated or freeze for later in the year

The finished product, keep refrigerated or freeze for later in the year

Tea

We get through a lot of herbal teas here at zero waste towers and making our own is one way to reduce costs and packaging. It’s pretty tricky to find zero waste teas and in the words of Granddad Green, home made mint tea “tastes better than shop bought” anyway!

Making it couldn’t be easier:

Select long stems of your chosen herb and tie around 6 stems in a small bunch. Hang these bunches from your ceiling in a warm place where the air circulates. In a few weeks you can crumble them and store. Add a couple of teaspoons of the dried herb to a mug of boiling water, leave to infuse for 10 minutes then strain and drink.

bunches of mint for drying

bunches of mint for drying

Same mint just three days after being hung up - starting to dry

Same mint just three days after being hung up - starting to dry

Dried herbs

How many of you go to the supermarket and buy tiny packets of dried herbs for cooking with? I’ve never been able to find a zero waste brand; nearly all refills come in some kind of unmarked cellophane wrapping and the jars themselves often have a plastic seal on them. Plus, when you look at what you get, they are an extortionate price.

Virtually any garden herb can be dried and kept in a cool, dark place for a year. For herbs where you want to use the leaves such as mint, marjoram and oregano use the drying method for tea.

For herbs where you use the seeds such as coriander or fennel you need to wait for Mother Nature to gift the seeds to you! During autumn you’ll clearly see the seeds on your plants and if they come away easily you can pick them off and store them for future use.

What about you? How do you preserve herbs to stop them ending up as food waste?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (11)

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  1. CarSue says:

    Along the lines of your herb butter, we like to infuse good quality olive oil with herbs. We fill mason jars with different assortments of herbs, then pour heated oil through and replace the lids. Let them sit for a few hours (or days), then pour the oil back into a bottle for easy dispensing. We label the bottles with the name of the mixtures (i.e. basil and sage, sage, rosemary and thyme, etc.) then use them later on pastas, salads, and more as a healthy, flavourful topping.

    I also like to crush a few mint leaves, then put them in ice cube trays, fill with water, and freeze. The cubes make a tasty, flavourful addition to summertime cocktails.

  2. Alicia C. says:

    I spread my herbs on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Our pilot light is always on, so they dry overnight. I keep them in washed out glass jars.

  3. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Mrs G

    like you I have a lot of mint which are taking over my garden. In the last week or so I have been drying some mint as it is a very fast growing ( it has already been cut twice so far). if you grow enough mint you can dry it and have enough for the winter I also have some flat parsley which has gone very bushy, I will probably dry this as well, I also have a rosemary bush which you can use throughout the year and Bay leave tree which can also be used throughout the year (that went brown due to the severe cold but now is recovering).

    I have also been growing some rainbow chard, which is very fast growing and make a change from spinach.

  4. Alyson says:

    Congratulations on being freezer free still. On the herby note. I would like to dry herbs too but first I must get them to stay alive. The rosemary is twiggy, my husband killed the sage ( the one herb I used the most) and even my mint is deciding whether to give up. Chives died years ago and didn’t get replaced and it looks like thyme might be going the same place.At least the bay bush is still alive,,,I hope.

  5. Julie Day says:

    The only herbs we have in the garden are chives, and I am the only one who eats them. Mum has been cutting them for me, saving money, and I have them on ryvitas with houmous, v delicious.

  6. Karen says:

    Use the trimmings from the top of rosemary to root and grow again to sell or give to your friends.
    Put rosemary and thyme on top of the coals when you barbeque.
    I found 3 shops that sell very small amounts of loose herbs . There must be many more. If I don’t grow the herb I try to buy tiny amounts.
    I always have a bottle of herb and garlic oil which I make up for myself. It also makes a nice gift if you visit a friend.
    Several of us take excess of herbs in to work to share with friends.

  7. JuWeL says:

    I am growing basil, parsley and dill and share them equally with my rabbits! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @CarSue: thanks for the info on infused oils. I think I’ve been put off that by friend’s efforts which have resulted in mouldy herbs – I think they left them in there ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Alicia C.: what a great idea for speedy drying – thanks!

    @Antonio Pachowko: sounds great Antonio – it’s certainly easy to be self sufficient in mint!

    @Alyson: Hmmm, sounds like your soil is not suitable. I know Rosemary loves alkaline soil (we have acid so ours died too) and the others like free draining soil. If your space has heavy soil it would be better to grow them in pots – or were you doing that already?

    @Julie Day: Mmmm, anything with ryvita and humous is delicious ๐Ÿ˜€

    @Karen: how fantastic you are able to buy herbs in small quantities Karen; I like all your gift suggestions too

    @JuWeL: Awwww, our bunny likes a herb salad for lunch too ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Jamila says:

    I like the fact that you showed the process here. As one of my tips was growing your own fruits and veggies, and even herbs (it can be done in an apartment too)!

    However, by reading this, it dawned on me! I could be making my own seasonings (e.g. Italian seasonings) and stop buying sore bought. This can be accomplished with growing the herbs, drying them out, and storing them in a non plastic container!

    SCORE! LOL.

    Thnx for the share!

  10. I tend to use herbs fresh, and only harvest them when Im cooking. However, I have a habit of over picking things, and end up with handfulls of chopped herbs left after creating my dishes. Obviously, I cant hang them up and dry them, when they have been prepared.
    The perfect solution, is a tea strainer, (You can get these in 2 major designs, Which look like a mini sieve, and a mini colinder. I have a sieve version, that hangs on a chain which allows the herbs to breath much better), which i fill with the remaining herbs and allow to dry. Once dry i transfer them to old marmite jars (the dark glass stops the herbs discolouring) to store until needed.
    I also use my freezer (going off topic here, I know) to preserve herbs, by putting fresh chopped herbs in an ice cube tray, with water, and freezing. Then, whenever I am making sauces, casseroles etc, (generally anything that cooks on the hob), I retrieve an ice cube or 2, for a perfectly sized portion of still very fresh herbs!

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Jamila: No problem; I hope you manage to create some lovely things. Interestingly I’ve just bought some dried mixed herbs and I bet if I check the ingredients I have them all in the garden – duh! Old habits die hard ๐Ÿ™‚

    @Michelle Morgan: Fantastic idea for using up the herbs you have already cut, Mihelle. The ice cube method is brilliant for those with freezer space and so handy too.

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