Fresh herbs add depth to recipes when added at the beginning and brightness at the end. They add color to otherwise drab pasta and can be used as a sauce for everything from grains to meat and vegetables – Pesto or Chimichurri, anybody? As beautiful as the herbs are, they don’t last long, but here’s how you can store them and use up every last leaf.
- 1 What is the difference between soft and tough herbs?
- 2 Where should you keep herbs – on the counter or in the refrigerator?
- 3 Do you have to wash your herbs before putting them away?
- 4 How long do fresh herbs last?
- 5 How to store fresh herbs in the freezer
- 6 How to dry herbs
What is the difference between soft and tough herbs?
- Tender grasses include leafy varieties with soft stems, such as basil, parsley, cilantro and dill. (Mint can also be classified as a tender herb, but we have found that it can also be stored well as a hardy herb!).
- Hardy grasses include types with more woody stems, such as rosemary, thyme and oregano. They are also the ones that require less water to grow. Think: rosemary growing in the clayey soil of the Mediterranean and oregano growing on the sandy mountains of Greece.
Where should you keep herbs – on the counter or in the refrigerator?
- Tender herbs benefit from being treated like live flowers and stored in water at room temperature – the temperature and air in the refrigerator can damage the bare, delicate leaves (two exceptions: parsley and cilantro can withstand the cold; it just cover dry leaves lightly with plastic before putting them in the refrigerator). To help them last longer, change the water every other day and discard any withered stems.
- Keep herbs resistant dry in the shells they are sold in or wrap in a damp paper towel and store in an open bag in the refrigerator. If stored in water, tough herbs can become waterlogged. Check them every other day – they’ll last longer if you occasionally change the packaging and throw away the faded pieces.
Do you have to wash your herbs before putting them away?
You should. Plus, if you wash them before putting them away, you’ll be likely to use them when cooking. However, it is important to dry your herbs thoroughly before packing and storing them, to prevent them from becoming damp and moldy.
- To wash tender herbs, hold by the stems and immerse the leaves in cold water. Shake to dry. You can be a little less careful about drying when storing on the counter as the herbs dry naturally in an upright position.
- To wash stubborn herbs, swirl around in cold water and lay flat on a clean tea towel. When dry, transfer to a damp paper towel and wrap in bundles before placing in an open bag in the refrigerator. These two cleaning methods allow dirt and debris to fall to the bottom of a bowl without the leaves being bruised by running water.
How long do fresh herbs last?
Depending on how you store them, some herbs can last up to a few weeks, while others should be used immediately. A few other factors contribute to their longevity, including the quality of the herbs when you buy them and how dry or not bruised before you store them. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
- Basil: Up to 1 week
- Coriander: 1 week to 10 days
- Parsley: 1 to 2 weeks
- Dill: 1 week
- mint: 3 to 4 days
- Chive: About 1 week
- Rosemary: 2 to 3 weeks
- Thyme: 2 weeks
- Oregano: 1 to 2 weeks
How to store fresh herbs in the freezer
To preserve herbs for the long term, fresh herbs can be frozen – but don’t just throw them in a bag! If you do, they’ll likely freeze together and form ice crystals that will drain and cloud their flavor when thawed. Instead of:
- Very dry herbs (water droplets will cause splashing during cooking) and chop them.
- Add herbs to an ice cube tray and fill with oil before freezing.
- Use the frozen cubes when you start cooking as you normally would for heating oil in a saucepan, or stirring at the very end to finish.
How to dry herbs
Fresh herbs can be dried or dehydrated so they can last up to six months when stored properly. To dry herbs, wash and dry them completely, then use a dehydrator low heat (95 ° F to 105 ° F) to suck moisture from the leaves until they crumble in your hand. The duration varies depending on the grass: tender herbs will dehydrate more quickly than the more resistant ones. Store dehydrated herbs in a small airtight container in a cool, dark place.
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