Herbs are amazing little plants capable of upgrading ho-hum dishes with an explosion of flavor and color. Unfortunately, many home cooks prefer not to cook with herbs because they don’t last long. A bunch of cilantro goes bad within days. Parsley is a bit heartier, but it often feels like food waste to toss a bunch after one week and one-time use. Most people are lucky if they can keep basil from wilting before they have a chance to use it the next day.
The thing is, herbs are delicate, and this scares many people away from purchasing them. Yet, herbs are only delicate when stored improperly. When stored the right way, you can preserve the freshness of most herbs for anywhere from a week and a half to three weeks — seriously! So, how do you store and preserve herbs? Check out these top ways.
Don’t Just Throw Them in the Fridge
If you’re like most people, you store your herbs in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, this common practice is what’s killing these tender plants.
Herbs need a careful balance of light, moisture, oxygen and temperature, something they cannot get in the ice box. While storing herbs depends on whether you’re dealing with tender or woody herbs, know that putting them in the produce drawer is a surefire way to lose them within 24 hours.
Put Tender Herbs in a Glass of Water
Tender herbs are herbs with soft, flower-like stems. As such, you should treat them like flowers to preserve their freshness. Fill a glass of water, trim the ends of the bunch and place the bunch in the glass. Change the water every couple of days to prevent it from getting grimy.
If you’re dealing with a basil bouquet, leave it out on the counter. However, you can store bouquets of just about every other tender herb in the refrigerator. Cover the bunch loosely with a plastic bag to help it retain its moisture and to keep the excess oxygen from browning its leaves. If you follow these directions, you can extend the life of tender herbs by one to two weeks.
So, which herbs do you treat as flowers? The following are the most common soft herbs:
Wrap Hard, Woody Herbs in a Damp Towel
When it comes to the heartier herbs, such as rosemary or sage, you want to take a significantly different approach. Hard herbs need moisture but not complete saturation of the stems, as tender herbs do. To strike the perfect balance, wrap them in a moist paper towel and place them in an airtight container or bag. Place the container or bag in your produce drawer. Make sure not to let the paper towel dry out.
If you are careful, you can keep hard herbs fresh for anywhere from 10 days to several weeks. The most common hard herbs are as follows:
By following these simple tips, you can preserve the freshness of your herbs for up to three weeks. In the process, you can take your cooking to the next level.