Why are herbs so popular for home gardens? Herbs are easy to grow and will thrive in a wide range of different climates and soil types. Due to their fragrant leaves, herbs are often left alone by many garden pests. Herbs are fantastic for beginner gardeners because there are fewer things that can go wrong and more chances of getting that much anticipated homegrown harvest.
Herbs can produce in abundance and many herbs benefit from being regularly trimmed back. This helps reduce old woody growth and promotes new fresh shoots and leaves.
Some herbs such as Basil, produce heavily in the warmer months and then die off over the cooler winter months. This means it is a great idea to preserve your herbs when they are thriving to save and use throughout the year when they are not as readily available.
So, what do you do with all the fresh herbs once they have been trimmed? Below are some ways to preserve your homegrown herbs to enjoy them throughout the year. Herbs also make great gifts from the garden to share with your friends and family. If you'd like some extra ideas on giving gifts from the garden, click here.
How to preserve extra herbs?
- Dried herbs - hang your herbs to dry and make your dried herb blends and salt rubs. Store in clean, dry, airtight jars and use them to flavour your roasts, soups and slow-cooked meals.
- Herbal tea blends - Dried herbs such as Mint, Lemon Balm, Thyme and Lemon Grass make delicious herbal tea blends. Get creative and add dehydrated fruit (link blog) to enhance the flavour.
- Make infused vinegar - Place your herbs in a jar of vinegar to infuse. The herbs will start to infuse after 24 hours, and you can leave them for up to two weeks to get your desired level of infusion. Strain off the herbs and use your infused vinegar to add flavour to meals and make delicious salad dressing.
- Make infused ice cubes - pop a few leaves in your ice cube trays to add flavour to your drinks. Try herbs such as Mint, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Lavender and Basil.
- Garden Pesto - use your fresh herbs and extra garden greens to make a delicious pesto. Extra pesto can be frozen in ice cubes to add flavour to soups, and slow-cooked meals.
How to Harvest your Herbs
Use sharp snippers or secateurs to harvest your herbs. Clean cuts will allow the herbs to grow back quickly and the plant won't spend extra energy repairing the cuts. The best time to harvest your herbs is first thing in the morning when they are fresh and full of life. During the day they will start to lose their moisture. The bees are also a little less active first thing in the morning.
Mixed Herb Pesto
Pesto is so easy to make and can be made with a wide range of greens and herbs from your garden. Each time you make a pesto try out a different combination using what is available in your garden.
Sustainable Holly’s Garden Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups of greens and herbs* see the list below for options
- 1 Garlic clove
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1 TBSP water
- ½ TBSP Lemon juice
- Pinch of sea salt to season
- Wash your herbs and remove the stalks.
- To keep your pesto vibrant green, it is a good idea to quickly blanch your greens first. Do this by bringing a wide pot of water to a simmer and submerging your greens for 20-40 seconds. Less for delicate herbs and a little longer for more robust greens such as chard or sweet potato leaves.
- Remove the greens and dunk them straight into a bowl of iced water.
- Strain the greens and add to a mixer or blender along with the rest of the ingredients. Blitz to combine.
- Keep your pesto in a jar in the fridge to use within a day or two.
To preserve your pesto, divide it into large ice cube trays and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen, place them in an airtight container in the freezer. These are great to add a burst of flavour to soups, curries, or slow-cooked meals. They can also be defrosted and used for dips or a quick and easy pasta sauce.
Waterwise Tip: Don't pour your leftover water out. Mix the hot blanching water with the iced water and water your garden once it is completely cool.
Get the most out of your Herbs
Don’t discard the flower heads and stalks, pop them in a jar of vinegar to infuse. Purple Basil flowers and stems make a vibrant pink infusion. Let them infuse anywhere from 1 day to two weeks then strain off the plant material. Use your infused vinegar to flavour meals or make a salad dressing.
Greens and herbs to use for Pesto
There are so many options when it comes to pesto! Here are some of my favourite herbs and greens to use for pesto. Basil, Nasturtiums (flowers and leaves), young Sweet Potato Leaves, Bokchoy, Tatsoi, Rainbow Chard, Parsley, Coriander, Spinach, Rocket, Fennel Fronds, Carrot Tops, Radish Tops, Chives, Mint.
Have fun with it and try out different mixed herbs, nuts and seeds to come up with your favourite combination. Try adding Chilli or Parmesan cheese to boost the flavour of your pesto. If your pesto tastes a little bland or mild, try adding a little extra salt and lemon juice. This can help draw more of the flavours out.
Harvesting a little bit from each plant can go a long way when your herbs are quite small. Use leafy greens to bulk it up if necessary.
How to use Pesto?
Pesto is a delicious addition to many meals. Below are just some of the ways you can use your mixed herb pesto:
- Stir through pasta for a quick meal
- Add yoghurt for a tasty dip
- Serve as a snack with carrot sticks
- Salad dressing
- Top on soups
- Spread on Toast with tomatoes or eggs
- Stir through mashed potatoes
- Pizza Bases
- Scrolls and Pull-parts
Herbs are packed full of flavour and are incredible additions to any edible garden. Plus, you don't need a lot of space to grow them! Herbs can be grown in grow bags or small containers, even in a pot on your kitchen bench. Get started today and you will be making your homemade pesto or dried mixed herbs in no time at all.