Ask Nina Rose:
How do I store fresh herbs so they keep as long as possible?
There’s nothing like the flavor of fresh herbs to really make a dish special, and with the summer months ahead, fresh herbs are abundant and inexpensive. But how many times have you bought a bunch of cilantro, only to have it wilt and rot in two days?
By using these methods to help extend the life of your herbs, you can enjoy fresh flavors well into the winter months when these plants go out of season, without resorting to using dried herbs from the pantry.
One of my go-to ways of storing fresh, leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro and dill is keeping them in a bouquet in the refrigerator. First, trim the ends of the stems and place in a glass with about an inch of water at the bottom. Don’t let the leaves submerge under water, just the stems. Wrap the leafy top with a paper towel and loosely place a freezer bag upside down on top of the bouquet – the paper towel wicks away excess moisture which can lead to rot, while the freezer bag locks in just enough moisture to keep the refrigerator from drying the herbs out. Store them in an area of the fridge that is cool, but not too cold, like the crisper or the door of the refrigerator. Check on your bouquet every day or two – if the water starts looking cloudy, change it. This method will keep your leafy herbs fresh as they day they were picked for weeks!
Herbs like basil and mint need a warmer environment to survive. Store these plants in a glass of water, making sure the leaves are kept above the waterline, on your window sill. Change the water every day or so, and your herbs will not only stay fresh for longer, but will look beautiful in your kitchen. You may even notice your herbs starting to sprout roots, and you can benefit from a full season of fresh herbs by planting these out back.
You can keep herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano fresh by wrapping in a moist paper towel, then loosely wrapping with plastic wrap or keeping in an open freezer bag, and storing in the crisper of the fridge. Check on your herbs every few days to be sure that the towel is moist – refrigerators have a way of pulling moisture out of your food, so you’ll want to dampen your paper towel and rewrap if it feels dry.
Here’s another handy tip: fill up mason jars with chopped or sliced green onions and chives, and keep in the refrigerator in the crisper or on the door of the refrigerator. Use as needed, and transfer to a smaller jar when only half is left. I’ve had green onions and chives stay fresh for weeks using this method, and I love the additional bonus of having prepped herbs that I can toss into, or garnish my dishes with for weeknight meals.
Lastly, you can chop hardier herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano, and freeze in oil or butter in an ice cube tray. Pack ice cube cavities 2/3 full with your fresh herbs, then pour over with melted butter or olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap, freeze, then pop them into a freezer bag so you can use them as needed. This method helps keep the herbs from drying out, which can happen when you freeze them in water, or on their own. It’s convenient when you want to saute food, all you have to do is place a cube in your pan to warm up, then toss in your ingredients to cook. The oil, or butter, infuses with the flavor of the fresh herbs and is wonderful way to add a fresh herb flavor to your dish year-round.
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