I love using fresh herbs in my food. But I don’t always need as much as I grow or purchase and I often find myself with bunches of herbs that end up in the garbage or compost because they’ve gone bad. What a waste! So I gathered together some ideas to help make use of my herbal overload.
Basil Pesto: Basil Pesto is simple to make and a great way to use up basil. To make up a big batch, toss 1-2 garlic cloves in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add in 3 cups basil leaves, ¼ cup pine nuts (optional), ¼ to ½ cup parmesan cheese. Turn the processor on and slowly drizzle in up to ½ cup of olive oil (or water), until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whatever you don’t use right away can be easily frozen. You can also make herbed pesto using a combination of herbs, like basil, parsley and chives.
Parsley Chimichurri: Bring a little Latin flare to your next meal with chimichurri sauce. There are many variations of this sauce, which can be used as a marinade, or a condiment for grilled veggies and meats. Here’s a basic one: in a food processor, finely chop 1 cup parsley and 1 garlic clove. Add in 1/3 cup olive oil, juice and zest of 1 lemon, ½ tsp red pepper flakes and ½ tsp cumin. Pulse to combine then season with salt and pepper to taste. Make your own variation at home by adding in other fresh herbs such as basil or oregano, or substituting smoked paprika for the cumin.
Moroccan Mint Tea: Moroccan style mint tea is a symbol of hospitality so brew up a batch for your next gathering. Simply bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Pour the water into a heat-resistant pitcher and add in 2 green tea bags; let steep for 2-3 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add in 1 large bunch of fresh mint (tie together with a string for easy removal). Allow to steep for another 3-5 minutes. Sweeten with ¼ cup agave nectar, honey or raw sugar before serving. Traditionally served hot, this mint tea would also be refreshing served cold.
Herb Infused Oils: Infuse oils with fresh herbs and spices for flavorful blends to have on hand, or give away as gifts. Gently warm fresh herbs, citrus zest, and/or spices in oil over low heat to infuse flavor. Let cool then strain and pour the oil into a clean airtight jar. Try combinations such as rosemary and garlic or sage and citrus peel.
Herb Cubes: Puree excess herbs with enough water, chicken or vegetable stock to make a loose paste. Then pour into ice cube trays and freeze. The frozen herb cubes can be kept in plastic bags in the freezer and used throughout the fall and winter to add fresh herb flavor to soups, stews, sauces and even pasta dishes.
Drying: Drying herbs at home is easy and is a cheap alternative to buying them at the store. If you happen to have a dehydrator on hand, then great! But if not, no worries. All you need to do is wash your herbs, dry them thoroughly and then spread them out on a cookie sheet. Place in an oven, set to the lowest possible temperature, and leave until dry. Remove, let cool, and crumble into airtight containers.
And if none of these ideas work for you, then simply bundle up your extra herbs, toss them into a little basket or mason jar and share them with a neighbor or friend. Who wouldn’t love that?!