Whether you’ve grown your fresh herbs in your garden, picked them up from the farmer’s market, or received them as a thoughtful gift, you’re now faced with the delightful challenge of preserving their flavors and fragrances for as long as possible. Storing fresh herbs properly is a skill worth mastering, as it will significantly extend their shelf life and ensure you have a ready supply of fresh herbs at your fingertips.
Trim and Wash
Before storing, trim the ends of the stems and remove any damaged or wilted leaves. Rinse the herbs gently under cool water and pat them dry with a paper towel or use a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.
Moisture can be the enemy of fresh herbs. Wrap the herbs loosely in a slightly damp paper towel to prevent excess moisture buildup. Alternatively, you can place the herbs in a clean, dry jar with a small amount of water in the bottom and loosely cover the top with a plastic bag. This helps create a humid environment without wetting the herbs.
Most fresh herbs should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness. However, avoid storing them near fruits, as some fruits produce ethylene gas, which can cause herbs to wilt more quickly.
Herb Keeper or Storage Container
Consider investing in a herb keeper or storage container designed to keep herbs fresh. These containers often have a water reservoir that allows the herbs to draw up moisture as needed.
Freezing fresh herbs is an excellent way to preserve them for longer periods. Chop the herbs and place them in ice cube trays, filling each compartment with water or olive oil. Once frozen, transfer the herb cubes to a freezer bag, labeled with the herb’s name and date.
Some herbs can be dried and stored for extended periods. Hang bunches of herbs upside down in a well-ventilated area until completely dry. Once dry, store them in airtight containers away from direct light and heat.
Know Your Herbs
Different herbs have varying storage needs. Some delicate herbs like basil and cilantro are best stored in the refrigerator, while hardy herbs like rosemary and thyme may do well stored in a cool, dry place.
How Long Do Fresh Herbs Last?
Fresh herbs have a limited shelf life, even with proper storage. It’s best to use them within a few days to a week for the best flavor and aroma. By employing these storage methods, you can prolong the life of your fresh herbs and reduce waste.