Edible Gardening 101: Freezing Annual Herbs
One of my favorite rituals in early fall is freezing annual herbs, including basil, cilantro, chives, dill, and parsley, as well as homemade pesto. Freezing herbs and pesto is totally worth the (minimal) effort because you can infuse soup, stews, and sauces with garden fresh flavor throughout the winter.
I like to freeze pesto in a Beaba Multiportion—a silicone container divided into 1/4 cup portions that comes with a lid. To freeze pesto, fill up each cell of the Multiportion with pesto, pop on the plastic lid, and stick it in the freezer. Once the pesto is frozen, remove the Beaba from the freezer, turn it upside down, and press the bottom of each portion. Neat 1/4 cup servings of pesto slide right out! I then wrap them up individually in plastic wrap and store them in a lidded glass container in the freezer.
Of course, a Beaba is merely a handy gadget, not a kitchen essential. You can also freeze pesto portions using kitchen tools you most likely have on hand. Simply line a small, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Portion out 1/4-cup mounds of pesto on the sheet and stick it in the freezer. Once the mounds of pesto freeze solid, remove them from the freezer. Wrap and store the pesto in the same way as described above. When you are ready to use the pesto, remove it from the freezer about an hour before you plan to use it to give the sauce time to defrost, or pop it into the microwave for a few seconds.
I freeze smaller portions of herbs in a silicone ice cube tray. First, make an herb puree by blending 1/2 cup of herb leaves (stems removed) with 3/4 cup olive oil until a loose puree forms. Then fill the cubes of an ice tray with puree and slide the trays into the freezer. Once the herb cubes are frozen, pop them out the cells, wrap them individually in plastic, and store them in labeled, lidded containers in the freezer.
I like to defrost the cubes and stir them into mayonnaise or Vegenaise for a tasty sandwich spread. You can also drop frozen cubes right into soups, stews, and sauces, or whisk defrosted cubes into a vinaigrette.
Willi Galloway is the author of Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and she writes about organic vegetable gardening and seasonal cooking on her blog, DigginFood.