harvesting thyme

Herbs, cut & freeze.

You may have a small herb plant or a whole bed planted out with seed.
The fresh cut-as-you-need-it is fine for each day, and gifting to neighbours and friends is one of the pleasures of growing but if you have a glut, you should harvest the herbs whilst at their best, which is usually at their most tender before hardening off later in the growing season. That way the stems are still soft, so the whole herb can be tossed right into your cooking, like thyme, rosemary etc. which will become quite woody later on if you wait. After cutting the lot, some will grow back, and this is more than enough for the casual pick-as-you-need-it 😉 

This year I missed the sweet spot for tenderness but no matter – even if the stems have hardened, my thyme will freeze beautifully and I can deal with the stems later – read on…

Some folks dry herbs, but I like freezing. I freeze enough for the whole year. These shallow containers stack beautifully and are not so deep as to make the contents inaccessible. Here are my top tips for harvest and freeze:

  • Grow organically without sprays, washing plants off the night before cutting and allow to dry in the morning.
  • Cut in the morning as that is the freshest time but do wait long enough for dew to dry off so you don’t have too many ice crystals in the freezer container later.
  • Brush your hand across the growing herbs a few times before cutting to encourage little bugs to escape impending doom.
  • Use shallow freezer containers and don’t pack down too full, so that the herbs freeze with space around them rather than as a solid squished block.
  • Don’t wash them after cutting!! Organic growing and prior washing in the garden (see above) means they are clean and dry so won’t wilt and be covered by ice crystals in the freezer. It gives you a ‘dry freeze’ effect.
  • Don’t keep for too long out of freezer as they will start to then wilt in the container. Grab out tray, pinch desired amount out and get that tray back into freezer quick-sticks! . ‘Crumble’ your pinch/handful into cooking (this is where you can toss the stalks etc into your trenching/compost box if they are a bit hardened – no need for chopping). If you are successful at this, then your herbs will be crunchy, not frozen solid.
  • Use stable containers designed to freeze – these ones are Decor brand, BPA free, and are not used for any purpose besides freezing (ie they are not heated). I have had and used the same ones for eleven years now. I have just the right number for my freezer, in three different sizes, all shallow and stackable. They just need a quick hand wash and dry, and ready to go again.
  • Write with permanent marker on a smooth side so it can be wiped off with a quick spritz of rubbing alcohol or tea tree spray and relabelled next time. 
  • Frozen herbs are for cooking – their flavour is still perfect but of course they generally wilt upon defrosting. Some of the woodier herbs like thyme do stand up well after defrosting and can still be sprinkled on top of cooked food like soup.

So there it is – freezing is the BOMB.

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bowl of pesto

Rocket pesto, the leafy green miracle.

So you’ve grown rocket (arugula) from seed and now frankly you’re inundated with it. Some will keep for seed, some go into salads etc, but still… a glut remains. 

The answer is pesto. Yum.

Rocket Pesto

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bowl of pesto
Pesto is easy, fresh and sooo handy. Spoon it onto hot or cold pasta, on boiled or baked potatoes, grilled or roasted steak ,chicken or mushroom, over salad, as a dip or on Toasted bread with fresh sliced tomato and a creamy cheese.
Section: Staple
Hero: herbs, Rocket
Features: Easy, pesto, Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 75g Rocket or other herbs firmly packed
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup 75g cashews or other nuts
  • 1/2 cup 75g Parmesan or other hard cheese cubed
  • 1/4 cup 32g quality olive oil (you are eating this raw after all)
  • black pepper and sea salt to taste

Instructions

  • Blend well all ingredients besides olive oil (TMX pulse on Turbo) until smooth. You may need to scrape the sides down and blend again.
  • Add olive oil in a stream and blend until smooth (TMX 10sec/sp3).
  • Add salt and pepper at the end on slow speed (TMX 3sec/sp2)

Notes

FEATURES: Freezable, adaptable, scaleable
EQUIPMENT: Thermomix (TMX) or food processor or elbow grease
SEASON: green leafy herbs can be harvested in any season
STORING: keeps in the fridge with lid on for about a week but never lasts that long at our place.
FREEZING: Some folks like to leave out the cheese if freezing pesto, and add back in later but seriously I just don’t have the time! Spoon into ice cube trays – the modern large silicone ones are super handy – when frozen, pop out into a freeze container.
VARIATIONS: Herbs – Pak Choy, Basil, Coriander, Fennel (use half baby spinach if taste is too strong with herbs alone) Nuts – almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, or mix in some seeds you love like sunflower kernels or pepitas. Cheese – Pecorino, Romano or any hard cheese with bite. Garlic – any allium you like really. My tummy doesn’t like garlic bulb so we use the garlic greens instead.

Even more handy is that you can use just about ANY herbacious leafy green. We often use Pak choy or spinach as a base and further flavour with rosemary, parsley, basil, rocket… you name it. The quickest meal with highly nutritious ingredients is just 20 minutes away. If you own a Thermomix (TMX) then you can make this pesto then cook pasta without even washing the bowl. At our place, Mr 14 is the pesto and pasta king. It is his go-to fast power meal. Add yummies like olives, preserved capsicum strips or any manner of tasty extras to your finished dish.

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