Storing Fresh Herbs

I love using fresh herbs in my everyday cooking. I often finely chop cilantro, parley and garlic to add to a lemon and olive oil marinade for chicken breasts. I often make pesto with arugula and walnuts or basil and pine nuts. Fresh oregano and basil with slow roasted tomatoes, olive oil and garlic cloves make a delicious pasta sauce and quinoa salads with a couple cups of the leaves of tender herbs gently torn from their stem such as dill, cilantro and mint make a perfect salad for a warm summer night.

If you are like me and enjoy using a variety of fresh herbs you likely find yourself with more herbs than you can use and there is nothing worse than waste. Over the years I have found a couple solutions to this problem. First, I grow my own in the summer. I have them at home and at the cabin, so I can pick them fresh as I need them. The second is to store them properly. Whether picked from the garden in bulk before they bolt or bought at the grocery store, there are a few key steps for keeping herbs fresh.

  1. Wash. In a clean sink or bowl add room temperature water and rinse herbs. Repeat until the water is clear. This is the most important step for all herbs as debris and bacteria will speed decay.
  2. Dry. Use a salad spinner or lay clean herbs on a dry paper towel and blot dry with another paper towel.

Hardy Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregano

  1. Wash and dry as above
  2. Place herbs on dry paper towel and roll up
  3. Wrap herbs in saran wrap
  4. Store in the refrigerator

Tender Herbs: Parsley, mint, cilantro, dill, tarragon (not basil)

  1. Wash and dry as above
  2. Trim ends and remove any wilted or discoloured leaves
  3. Transfer bunch to a large jar or plastic container filled with 1 inch of water
  4. Cover the herbs and jar with a plastic bag and seal it with an elastic band.
  5. Store herbs in the fridge and change the water every few days

Temperature sensitive herbs: Basil

  1. Wash, dry, trim ends and place in jar with 1 in water
  2. Store the jar of herbs on the counter out of direct sunlight
  3. Change the water daily

Alternative Method: If you are like me and can’t give up that much real-estate in the fridge then you can do the crisper method.

  1. Wash herbs, trim end and remove wilted and discolored leaves
  2. Lay wet herbs on dry paper towel.
  3. Roll up herbs in the now damp towel
  4. Store paper towel roll in plastic bag partially sealed in crisper

For longer term storage or when you have harvested large quantities of fresh herbs you can dry them in the microwave or freeze them. To freeze, wash, dry and trim. Chop and place in ice cube tray topped with either water or oil and freeze.

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