Herbs are a great way to add flavor and aroma to food. They’re also healthier alternatives to salt and sugar in this regard. But, when it comes to buying them in the market, many people choose to go with dried herbs or even the pre-ground ones already prepared in bottles.
One of the biggest reasons for this is because fresh herbs are hard to store. They wilt and don’t last as long as their dried counterparts.
But, there are ways to keep them longer. Here’s how to store fresh herbs. We go through the best way step by step to extend their shelf life and flavor.
How to Store Fresh Herbs So They Last Longer
Here’s a quick summary of the steps. They’re simple and straightforward. The key is to make sure that you store soft herbs differently than hard herbs. Doing this ensures that both will last much longer than one to two days.
Quick Summary of the Steps
- Buy the herbs from the supermarket or pick them from your garden
- Make sure to wash them
- Separate tender herbs from hard herbs
- Pack the hard herbs and tender herbs differently
- Store them in the refrigerator
How Do You Wash Herbs for Storing and Why Do You Need to Wash Them?
The very first thing you want to do with fresh herbs after picking them up from the supermarket or your home garden is to wash them.
This is important even if you plan on using them immediately for in food. Doing so gets rid of any soil or other particles that have been stuck in them. It also removes germs, insects and other decay from them.
The simplest, most efficient way to wash and clean herbs is using a salad spinner. Instead of having to wash them by hand one by one, place them in the spinner under cold water. Spinning helps loosen any debris that’s been stuck while the water rinses the herbs as well. Washing them also helps rehydrate the herbs.
Once done, pat them dry using paper towels.
One thing we noticed was that herbs that were washed before storing in the fridge lasted much longer than those that weren’t washed beforehand.
So, if longer storage life if what you’re after, this is a crucial step.
How Do I Keep Herbs Fresh Longer?
Washing not only helps clean out all the excess particles from the herbs. In the process, it gets rid of decay, small worms or other bad things that can cause the leaves to wilt much faster. This is why unwashed herbs wilted days before the washed one did even in the fridge.
In addition to washing, there are a few other things you can do to help extend the freshness of your herbs.
- Exposure to light. Like medicine, you don’t want herbs to be stay under to much sunlight or other types of light. This can cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown within a few days. The reason is that too much light damages the chlorophyll in them, which is what gives them their green color.
- Oxygen. Remember when you left a peeled apple on the plate and seeing it turn brown when you returned? That’s the same thing that happens to herbs if they’re exposed to too much oxygen. The leaves experienced oxidation which damages them. For this reason, you want to wrap them or cover them carefully when storing.
- Moisture. Moisture is another issue. Too much or too little are both bad. Excess moisture gives you slimy or moldy leaves after a while. On the other hand, not enough moisture causes them to dry out where they lose flavor and can break apart easily.
- Temperature. Conditions that are too hot or too cold are likewise bad. Heat makes them decay faster. Similarly, environments that are too cold will cause them to brown faster. Temperatures in your fridge are perfect for storing because it’s not too hot or cold.
These may sound like a lot of extra work. But, they’re well worth it. Taking the proper steps before and during storing helps prolong the shelf life of herbs by two or more weeks.
What’s the Difference Between Tender and Hard Herbs?
Now that you know the different factors that affect freshness, it’s time to take a look at the different types of herbs and how to store them best.
In general, there are two types of herbs: soft (tender) and hard.
- Tender herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, dill and tarragon have soft stems.
- Hard herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and chives have woody stems.
This makes it easy to distinguish between the two types. You can memorize them if you wish. But, if you can’t remember, all you need to do is feel the stems.
The type of herbs affects a lot of things.
- When they’re in season. Soft herbs are in season during the spring and fall. Hard herbs enjoy their season all the way till early fall.
- Cooking. Hard herbs are more resilient. So, they can be added during cooking to infuse flavor. Soft herbs are better used at the end to finish the dish or after you’ve taken the food off the fire.
- Storage. Because of their make up, the different herbs need to be stored in their own ways to maintain freshness.
How Do You Store Tender Herbs?
After you’ve washed the herbs, trim the stems and get rid of the brown or wilted leaves.
Then, put then into a mason jar that’s filled with an inch of water. And finally, cover the top of the jar with the lid. This makes it very similar to flowers, except for the lid.
The water will help keep the herbs moist. You do need to change the water every few days when it starts to get murky. This will help maintain freshness.
When their packed in the mason jar, place the jar in the fridge to store.
How Do You Store Hard Herbs?
The best way to store herbs to extend freshness is to use a paper towel. You will want to dampen it before wrapping the herbs in them. This provides them with moisture so that they don’t dry out in the fridge.
You’ll want to wrap them carefully on a single layer, not bunched up together. This ensures each herb is properly covered.
Once the herbs are wrapped, place the paper towels in something airtight. This can be a resealable bag or container.
Finally, keep them in the fridge.
How Long Do Herbs Store For?
Proper preparation extends the freshness of the herbs for weeks. This lets you enjoy fresh herbs without the problem of them wilting on you.
Here’s how long you can expect the herbs to maintain freshness when stored in the fridge properly.
- Cilantro: 3 weeks
- Mint: 2 weeks
- Tarragon: 3 weeks
- Dill: 2 weeks
- Parsley: 3 weeks
- Basil: 2 weeks
- Sage: 2 weeks
- Thyme: 2 weeks
- Oregano: 2 weeks
- Rosemary: 3 weeks
- Chives: 1 week
- Savory: 2 weeks
So there you have it. Fresh herbs are amazing for flavoring food. And, they’re healthy. Being able to store them for weeks at a time lets you enjoy them without having to worry that they’ll wilt on you after a few days.
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