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There’s no kidding ourselves here in Tahoe, summer is over and fall is here.  The aspens and maples are changing color, the salmon are running and it’s starting to freeze at nights.  While I’m looking forward to snuggling on the couch under an electric blanket and watching the snow fall, it’s bad news for the gardens we worked so hard on over the summer.

I don’t have too hard of a task with my plants, this year there are only a few pots of herbs to find homes for inside the house, but my friend had a great patch of collard greens and whole lot of herbs that needed to be cleaned up before the weather turns chilly.  With some help from her energetic lab, Nalu, we were able to easily harvest and trim up everything.  The hard part will be trying to put everything to use!

Here’s some ways you can preserve your summer herbs.

  • Dried Herbs – Super easy, just tie or rubber band a bunch of cleaned herbs and hang them somewhere to dry up.  I like to use the garage for a place to hang them because there is less mess inside the house if some leaves fall and it’s usually draftier than the house.  When they’re ready, just crush them over a sheet of newspaper and pour into a container.  Make sure to label them so you don’t forget what they are.

  • Pesto – You can make a traditional basil pesto with garlic and parmigiano or just a simple blend of oil and herbs (or anything in between for that matter!) Making an oil based ‘sauce’ like pesto or chimichurri is a great way to preserve almost any type of herb because of how well they keep.  Herb and oil sauces keep in the fridge for weeks and freeze quite well too; it’s so nice to have some bright happy herb sauces to pull out of your freezer in the winter.  I made a mint pesto from my friend’s harvest.  It would be lovely in any sort of salad, with a lamb dish or with a light flavored fish.  I chose to keep it simple to highlight the mint flavor and because I can always add in other flavors later when I decide on what to eat it with.

Mint Pesto 

Makes approximately 1/2 – 1 cup of pesto – the cost is dependent on the type and quantity of oil that you use

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1/4 bunch parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • salt and black pepper – to taste

Blend all ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste.  Add more or less oil, depending on how thin or thick you prefer your pesto.  If you’re not planning on heating or freezing the pesto, this would be a good time to splurge with the tasty extra virgin olive oil.  This is just the basics, make it your own!

  • Infused Oils – This is much easier than it sounds and a great thing to do with herb stems of your more expensive or flavorful herbs.  Infused oils are gorgeous drizzled on top of soups or just to dip a nice loaf of bread in.  I usually use more neutrally flavored oils to infuse so that the herb’s flavor isn’t competing with the oil.  This is not the time to use a fancy extra virgin olive oil, because you heat the oil to infuse it you are changing all the lovely flavors in the olive oil you paid so much for; so use a regular ol’ olive oil and boost its flavor with your herbs!

Basil Oil – As this recipe only uses the stems, the cost for this is the price of whatever oil you decide to use.  I used half vegetable oil and half olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oil
  • 1 bunch basil stems and any ‘less than perky’ looking leaves

Put the oil and basil stems in a sauce pot and heat over the lowest setting on your stove for 10 minutes.  Make sure that the basil stems don’t brown or burn.  Remove from the heat and let the cool.  (When I infuse oils at work, I bring the oil up to a medium heat and then leave it over just the pilot light.)

Thoroughly blend the cooled oil and stems in any sort of blender: food processor, immersion blender, magic bullet, whatever you have!  Next strain the puree through either a coffee filter, a few layers of cheese cloth or an extremely fine meshed strainer, and what comes out should be a lovely green basil oil!

This is a generic formula for making any sort of herb infused oil.  You can use this process on any sort of herb that you like with any sort of oil.  It will keep in a freezer or fridge for many months and be good on the counter top for many weeks.

The sky is the limit for how you can use up summer herbs while they’re still here!  Leave me a comment, I’m curious to see what clever things you all did with yours!

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