How many times have you opened the fridge and pulled out the herbs you bought a few days ago, only to find they’ve wilted or, worse, gotten slimy? Storing your fresh herbs properly can help them last much longer.
Buying fresh herbs is always a game of roulette, and it seems like the slightest change can throw your whole bag of herbs into a downward spiral. You get home from the grocery store with your herbs wrapped in the plastic produce bag, then promptly stuff them into your fridge, to keep them safe from going bad. But you can do better!
You can break herbs into two broad categories—soft and hard. Soft herbs have delicate stems and leaves—think basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro. Hard herbs have more woody stems and hearty leaves—like rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Each type has different storage requirements and we’ll take a look at both. But first, a word on washing herbs.
Should You Wash Your Fresh Herbs?
First things first. You should always wash your herbs before eating them. This is especially true of herbs you eat raw because herbs can carry bacteria you don’t want to ingest. But, it’s also not a bad idea to wash fresh herbs you plan on cooking just to get rid of any loose grit or dirt.
The real question here is whether you need to wash them before you store them. And the answer to that is yes—washing your herbs before your store them will make them last longer.
So, how do you wash them? The same way you’d do lettuce before making a salad. Rinse them well and pat them dry, or toss them into a salad spinner.
Storing Soft Herbs
Soft herbs, like the ones described previously, love having their stems drowning in water, sucking up as much as possible to help them stay fresh and crisp long after purchasing them from the store.
They’ll last longest when you store them the same way you’d handle cut flowers in a vase.
After washing and then drying excess water off the leaves, trim the ends of the stems. This allows the herbs to suck up more water while in storage. Remove any leaves that might get covered by water, as they will die much faster when submerged.
Place them in a container—cup, jar, or vase—the same way you’d do with a bouquet of flowers. You want the stems in water, but not the leaves. Making sure the jar is tall enough not to tip over and change the water every few days, or when it starts to discolor.
Finally, cover your bouquet of herbs loosely with a plastic bag—preferably the one you brought the herbs home from the supermarket in—and place it in the fridge until you need a few sprigs for your meal.
The only exceptions here are basil and mint. While other soft herbs are fine with the cold of your fridge, basil and mint prefer a much warmer climate and some sunlight to help stay fresh. Instead of putting your jar in the fridge, place it on your counter, or by a window that gets some sunlight throughout the day.
Remember, the herbs need to be able to breathe, so when placing the bag back on top, don’t tuck it in.
Storing Hard Herbs
Unlike soft herbs, hard herbs don’t require excessive water to stay fresh and hearty; they have a defence mechanism to help prevent desiccation because they’re generally from places with an arid climate.
After rinsing and drying your hard herbs lay them lengthwise on a clean, damp paper towel–or a hand towel– and wrap it around so they’re all covered. Make sure the towel is damp, not soggy or sopping wet.
Place the wrapped bunch inside a plastic bag and put it inside the fridge.
Re-moisten the paper towel when it starts to dry out and replace it if it starts to discolor. This helps prevent your herbs from going moldy.