Eight Ways to Use Fresh Herbs at Home
Are you interested in growing herbs at home but wonder how to use your entire bounty? After all, a sprinkle of basil in your pasta sauce will hardly put a dent in a bushy plant.
The good news is that there’s no limit to how you can put herbs to use once you have them on hand from a home hydroponics system like the Grow Pad Mini.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the best uses for homegrown herbs helping you make the most out of your harvest.
Infuse Them In Butter or Olive Oil
Take plain olive oil to another level by infusing it with fresh herbs. Rosemary is a popular choice because the plant stands up to heavy handling and creates the perfect flavor pairing for pasta and bread, though any herb will work.
Start by thoroughly washing and drying your herbs, ensuring there’s no lingering water that could cause bacteria growth. Find a mason jar or a bottle with a good seal, and add the rosemary to it. Pour in olive oil until the herbs are fully submerged. Seal the jar and move it to a dark place, like a rarely used cupboard.
Let the oil sit undisturbed for two to three weeks before straining out the herbs. You can use your infused oil for cooking or drizzle it over your favorite dishes for a pop of flavor.
It’s even simpler to infuse fresh herbs in butter. Let the butter get to room temperature and stir in a blend of finely chopped herbs. You can slather some on bread immediately or freeze it for future use.
Make and Freeze Pesto
If you have an abundance of basil, it’s time to make pesto. This uncooked sauce comes from the Italian word for “pounded,” and it’s the perfect complement to both pasta dishes and grilled vegetables.
Traditional pesto is made from fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, and plenty of pine nuts, but you can substitute almonds or cashews as well. And if you’re feeling creative, consider making pesto with cilantro, parsley, or even mint.
Don’t be afraid to make a big batch when you have the ingredients—pesto freezes beautifully for future use. Simply pour some into an ice cube tray, freeze, and pop the cubes into a Ziplock bag for perfectly portioned servings.
- Pulse in the Food Processor for Instant Salsa
Make an effortless weeknight meal with the herbs you have on hand with this ultra-quick salsa-inspired sauce. It works best with cilantro, parsley, with spinach to bulk it up, but you can substitute your favorite greens instead. Use it as a dip, pour it over pasta, or even serve it as a zesty side for barbequed meats.
Freeze for Future Use
There’s no reason to panic if you harvested more herbs than you need. . Tough varieties like rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano freeze well in oil for use as a soup base, scrambled eggs, or roasted potatoes.
Clean, dry, and finely chop your herbs before packing them into an ice cube tray. Fill in the gaps with olive oil, ensuring that the plants are fully covered to prevent freezer burn. Once hardened, you can store them in a plastic freezer bag.You can also freeze whole basil leaves. Wash and discard the stems, and then spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet to flash freeze. Transfer the leaves into freezer bags for use when needed. Note that the leaves may turn black as they unthaw, though their flavor won’t be affected.
Dry for Spice Blends
There’s nothing better than turning to your spice rack and seeing a selection of herbs you grew yourself. Drying herbs is the traditional long-term storage method, and it’s an ideal way to enjoy them months after harvesting.
Keep things simple by using a countertop dehydrator, or you can tie sprigs together into small bouquets and hang them downward in a warm, airy spot out of direct sunlight (make this DIY herb drying rack to aid the process).
You’ll know they are fully dry when they crumble easily—typically within eight to ten days. Once dry, you can store them whole in airtight bags or mason jars to use in any recipe.
No time?? You can also dry the herbs in the microwave. Wash and dry them before placing them between two layers of paper towel. Cover with an additional layer or two of paper towel and microwave on high in 20-second bursts until the plants are dry and crinkly.
Flavor Your Water Without Calories
If plain water leaves you uninspired, add fresh herbs to encourage hydration.
You can purchase reusable water bottles designed for water infusions and then fill the inside cylinder with your favorite combination of fresh ingredients. Mint, basil, and rosemary each go well with citrus or sliced berries for a refreshing, zero-calorie drink. Make sure you chop everything into small pieces to increase the surface area and extract as much flavor as possible.
You can typically reuse the same ingredients for two or three days, so long as you never leave the bottle out of the fridge for longer than two hours. If you don’t have a specialized water bottle, simply freeze herbs and fruit slices into ice cubes to toss into your drink for a midday refresher.
Prefer a hot drink? Dry your fresh grown mint or basil to brew into enriching herbal teas.
Make a Homemade Herbal Tincture
Many herbs have healing benefits, and you can extract them with alcohol through homemade tinctures.
Rosemary is a classic choice, and the process is similar to infusing herbs in oil. Start by washing and drying the rosemary (flowers and leaves are both suitable) before placing it in a mason jar.
Cover with an 80-proof alcohol like vodka or gin, and let the jar sit for six weeks out of sunlight. Shake it every few days before straining out the plant material and pouring the liquid into a tincture bottle.Many people take it by the dropperful for its purported health benefits, which include aiding digestion, improving memory and concentration, and boosting the immune system.
Cook Simple Syrup
Take your cocktails to the next level by serving them with a simple syrup crafted from your homegrown herbs. Mint and rosemary are classic choices, though basil can add an unexpected complexity to the flavor.
The process couldn’t be simpler. Just add a big handful of freshly washed herbs to a pot that contains equal parts water and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and remove it from the heat. Strain out and discard the herbs once the mixture cools, and use the syrup to sweeten everything from your mixed drinks to your morning coffee.
Grow Your Own Herbs for a Steady Supply at Home
There’s no limit to the ways you can use fresh herbs at home. Start growing your own supply today so you always have homegrown produce on hand for when creativity strikes. After some experimentation with these ideas for fresh herbs, you’ll be amazed you ever did without.