Keeping cut herbs
The best time to pick herbs is mid-morning, once the dew has dried and before the noon sun wilts them.
Place fresh herbs on dampened paper towels, then place in a polythene bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They will keep fresh and flavoursome for about five days for adding to recipes. From time to time check and discard any wilting leaves and keep paper towels moist.
Parsley, basil, mint and other leafy herbs can be set in a jug of water in the refrigerator for up to a week. Change the water regularly.
Drying bay, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
Pick the plants in the morning after the dew has dried.
If space allows, keep the herbs on the stem to keep the flavour as long as possible. Gather them into small bunches, securing with rubber bands, twist ties, or strands of raffia. Thread the herb bundles onto a sturdy cord and hang in a cool, dark place for about a week.
Or spread on trays covered with muslin to keep dust off in a warm, airy dark place (the ideal temperature is between 22–30°C/72–86°F).This will take 2–3 days and the herbs should retain their original colour. If their colour starts to fade, the temperature is too high.
When the leaves crumble, they are ready for long-term storage. To check if they are ready, put a few leaves in a jar with a lid and if condensation appears in 1–2 days, they need more time.
They can be left in bundles and stored in a paper bag or the dry leaves can be stored in clean glass jars.
Alternatively, they can be dried in the oven on the lowest setting for about an hour, leaving the door slightly open. Once dry, they can be be crumbled and kept in jars.
Store the herbs in a dark place for up to 6–8 months.
To prepare small batches for cooking, place a few dry bundles into a paper bag and, holding it closed, pound the herbs with the palm of the hand. Rub the stems with fingers to remove any remaining leaves.
Freezing basil, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, savoury and tarragon
Harvest herbs in the morning after dew has dried. Rinse and dry well. Remove leaves and discard stems.
Arrange on a baking sheet and freeze, then place in plastic bags and return to the freezer. Or make herbed ice cubes by filling ice trays three-quarters full with chopped herbs and covering with cold water. Freeze. Pop out of the frozen cubes and transfer to freezer bags. Add these to soups, sauces and casseroles as needed.