How To Store Fresh Herbs
avoiding food waste
Herbs can add tremendous amounts of flavor to a meal, either by adding brightness or earthiness to the dish, or by being the main star of the meal - such as a pesto.
Whichever way you like to enjoy them - and all their nutritional benefits - storing fresh herbs can be a little tricky. This often leads to food waste, and not to mention a waste of money and time. To ensure you can use the whole batch you bring home, however little or small.. follow some of these tips gathered from loved and respected food sites, anecdotal references, and certain food docu-series such as Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat.
Buy the amount you want, obviously, but foodies out there can get excited with ingredient shopping, especially when they look extra perky and fresh at the store, when in season, and get carried away. Meal and menu planning helps greatly to know what you might expect to do with your meals over the course of the week.
When buying herbs, you want to focus on picking bright, fresh looking, and preferably, for soft herbs, with stems, raw/loose, vs something that is already packaged. Obviously, avoid any brown spots or a bunch that looks like it’s already halfway through its life.
Washing Them Before You Store Them
Washing your herbs before storing them, ensures easy use throughout the week. This might also increase your chances of grabbing them out of the fridge or glass and using them unexpectedly in a meal when you know you don’t have to wash and wait on drying time.
Ideally, to ensure all dust and dirt is off, and using a little less water, grab a bowl with some cold water, shimmy the herbs as you let them hang out in there - shaking off any larger pieces of dirt, and letting the rest fall and wash away as you pull them out. Give them a final rinse in cold water and let them air dry for another few minutes on a clean kitchen towel.
Excess water might harm them, so don’t store them dripping wet and don’t press them to dry either, you might end up hurting the leaves, before you’re able to use them.
Cilantro, Mint, Parsley, Dill and similar that are softer and more flimsy can be stored in a damp paper towel and then in an airtight bag or container. For the bag option - may we suggest a nice Stasher bag that is kinder than single-use plastic bags!
In a jar or glass, have the couple inches of the stem (cut off any roots if bought with) submerged in some water (cold or room temp) and change the water every couple days. If your jar or tub does not have a cover, then drape a bag (Stasher or similar) over the top to maintain the moisture/temp around the leaves.
If you are absolutely in a rush, poke some holes in the bag that you bought it in (if it’s a disposable plastic bag) to let it breathe until you can store it properly later on.
Basil, however, is better outside the fridge (same steps as above otherwise) - notice how it turns black very quickly in the fridge.
Herbs such as tarragon, thyme, etc, can be pre-washed similarly, but stored in a damp paper towel and airtight bag/container.
Reviving Wilted, Softer Herbs
For a lot of softer herbs, such as cilantro, wilting is usually caused by dehydration, and letting them rest in cold water for a bit should often do the trick and allow the cells to rehydrate.
What To Do With Herbs You Will Not Be Using
Freezing is the way to go. Turn your herbs into a quick pesto or paste in a blender, and store in a freezer safe bag, or even ice cube tray, and use for tossing with pasta, salad dressing, or roasted veggies last minute!
During the week a great way to sneak in herbs is in a pasta sauce, meatball (chop them up and mix in), or a flavorful and bright green risotto, and even, your daily green juice!
Cover photo: Skyla Design