Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How to keep herbs fresh

I got a great question today "How do you keep fresh herbs fresh for more than 1 day?"



1. Pat the bunch of herbs dry as you can. Remember, herbs are delicate, so don't bash them.

2. Wrap individual bunches of herbs in clean, dry paper towel, label the bundle (that way you don't have to open every one to find what you want), wrap in plastic wrap (I like Glad Press 'n Seal) and put the bundle in a zip lock baggie. They'll keep for at least a week in the fridge.

Of course, basil being a delicate herb will not last quite as long as some of the others. Rosemary, thyme, parsley and oregano will last the longest. Basil will probably start to turn brown and lose it's lovely fragrance in a few days. Dill, cilantro/coriander and mint are somewhere inbetween.

One thing I find with dill in particular is that the bunches are huge and because they give off such a powerful fragrance that you don't need a lot so what do you do with all that dill? Of course you could make tons of chicken or tuna salad or soups like chicken or split pea. But even then, you'll still have tons left over.

So what I do is dry them. Just take the leaves off the stems, coarsely chop the leaves and spread them out on waxed or parchment paper (even a big plate will do) so they are in a thin layer (faster to dry). After a few hours, given them a toss so the leaves underneath will be exposed to air. Within a day or two you will have a fabulous supply of flavorful herbs. Just put them in a ziplock bag (I should get a commission from Glad, don't you think?).

I've also used this method for parsley and oregano. They retain their color and fragrance. My cilantro experiment didn't do as well.

Another way to preserve herbs is to chop them up and fill ice cube trays with them. Leave enough room for water to cover them so they don't turn black. Then just pop out your cube and add to soups and stews for flavor. Many people do this with pesto, but I personally leave mine in the fridge - it lasts way longer than the books tell you. Just make sure you have some kind of plastic wrap touching the pesto at all times. It keeps it from oxidizing (turning black from the oxygen in the container).

As promised, whenever anyone offers another suggestion in the comments, I'll edit the original post to include them....
Here's a suggestion from ejm for keeping herbs fresh longer and one for drying herbs as well

"I dry herbs by tying them at their base and hanging them upside-down in bunches.

To keep storebought herbs fresh (parsley, dill, coriander leaf), I trim
the stems and put them in a small vase on the counter - okay, it's usually a jam
jar.... If I trim the stems and change the water daily, the herbs will generally
last about a week"

If anyone has some other herb saving tips, let me know.


Please email me any of your questions, and if I don't have the answer, I'll certainly try find it for you.

Related links:

2 comments:

Kalyn said...

Great post for WHB. Thanks for the tips.

ejm said...

I dry herbs by tying them at their base and hanging them upside-down in bunches.

To keep storebought herbs fresh (parsley, dill, coriander leaf), I trim the stems and put them in a small vase on the counter - okay, it's usually a jam jar.... If I trim the stems and change the water daily, the herbs will generally last about a week.

-Elizabeth