best way to preserve garden herbs: freezing method in ice cube trays

Freezing self-grown basil herbs (basil) in ice cube trays for winter use

as seen in #21975 TasteSpotting/18.09.08; #5524 foodgawker/18.09.08


This year the summer was over in Switzerland rather early, I remembered when I first arrived Basel three years ago, also in mid-Sept, it was not this cold. I felt the warm weather just disappeared all of a sudden without any signs or saying goodbye to us, the daytime temperature dropped from 25°C to 15ºC sharply one day to another. I am missing the warm weather, I don’t want to put on winter clothes yet.

Last week, I have harvested and preserved the basil leaves from our garden so to enjoy them in the winter. My neighbour, Philly gave us two different species of basil that I had not come across in the supermarket: small leaves basil (Fig. 1) and purple leaves basil (Fig. 2).


Fig.1 Small leaves Basil


Fig.2 Purple leaves Basil

I have searched in the internet, there are so many different ways of preserving herbs that I did not know which method is the best, so I could only use my best guess. In the end, I have chosen the ice cube method (see below for details) for the small leaves basil as I do not need to chop them into smaller pieces, this seemed to be the most convenient and cleanest method.

As for the purple leaves basil, I divided the leaves in batches and wrapped them in cling film and then I used kitchen paper as separator between each batch so they will not stick together. Lastly I put them in a zip-lock bag and placed in the freezer for winter use.


Freezing Basil using Ice-cube method:

  1. Harvest the basil leaves, pick the healthy ones (Fig. 3).
  2. Wash, pick the leaves off the stalk and then use the salad spinner to spin out most of the water (Fig. 4 & 5). 
  3. Pat dry with kitchen towels (Fig. 6).
  4. Stuff the herbs in ice cube trays.
  5. Fill the tray with water. Using your finger push the leaves down into the water as much as possible as they tend to float. Place the ice cube tray in the freezer (Fig. 7).
  6. Once the ice cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and transfer to zip-lock bags.
  7. These cubes are now ready for use, simply add the whole ice cube into your dish during cooking.


11 thoughts on “best way to preserve garden herbs: freezing method in ice cube trays

  1. Janet, I’ve just given your blog an award on my site….

    Thanks Karen, I was about to shut down my laptop as I have just finished this post and it’s 1:35am and then I saw an incoming link…. and what what a nice surprise: )

  2. This is such a good idea. I never think to rescue my herbs before they’re completely gone for the season. I must get organized this year. Thanks for the boost!

  3. Great method. The water doesn’t darken or make too soft the basil leaves upon defrosting?

    You can also do the same method w/ the ice cube trays but instead of water use olive oil.

    Or even step it up by making pesto and freeze in the trays. Adding a little extra olive oil to the tray if necessary.

    Hi Sookie, thanks for stopping by. They will go soft in any case. I have thought of using olive oil too but I feel it’s easier to clean up with water and my neighbour who is more experienced said water would be good enough and will not go dark. Preserved basil cannot be used in salad but only cooked dishes.

  4. That is a great tip. I don’t own a garden, but whenever I buy basil, it comes in a big pack and it’s such a waste to throw them away after three days because of discoloration …

    I am the same experience with you and have thought of that too, nice you mentioned it here ; )

  5. This is a great way to preserve herbs. My husband buys garlic packaged this way, but the packaging part makes me wince, it’s so wasteful. All I need to do is buy a couple of mini ice cube trays and problem solved!

  6. I’ve used this method for years successfully. I recommend it for easy portioning. One other way of preserving a really fresh taste is to make a “cigar”. Have you ever tried it? You wash and pat dry your herb (I do this with basil) and put it at the end of a piece of plastic wrap. I start to roll the plastic up while compressing the herbs tightly. Rolled, it looks like a cigar. I’ve actually used basil from one 3 years old and it still had a vibrant flavor. The only drawback for an herb cigar is that you have to slice off your portion and rewrap.

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