How To Keep Your Herbs Fresh

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To know how to best store your herbs, fist you have to determine if they are classed as tender or hard. Tender (or soft) herbs have soft stems and leaves found in herbs like coriander, parsley, basil, mint and tarragon. Hard (aka firm, hardy or woody) herbs have a woody stem such as rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano.

How To Keep Your Herbs Fresh

Some say not to wash herbs when you bring them home because it adds moisture, causing potential rot. However, the truth is when you bring herbs home from the supermarket, they are generally already wet. Herbs do best when washed under cold water and spun in a salad spinner. Washing and spinning them removes any debris or germs that will feed decay. This is especially true for tender leafy herbs. If you do not have a salad spinner, it’s best not to wash the herbs until they are ready to use. This is not the case for hard herbs though, they should stay dry until ready for use. This principle also doesn’t apply to basil, which will turn black very quickly after washing.

Fresh soft herbs can go bad from numerous causes. Too much moisture on the leaves can turn them slimy, while too little can cause them to dry out. Also, excess light can cause fresh herbs to turn yellow, and excess oxygen (and sometimes cold temperatures) can turn them brown. The key is to find the herb’s ‘happy place’ among these factors.

Wash (soft herbs only, except basil)

Wash your herbs in a clean sink or large bowl filled with cold water. Swirl the herbs around gently in the water to loosen any debris. Drain the water and spin the herbs dry. Set them on a layer of paper towels, and pat gently to blot away any excess moisture. Omit this step if you do not own a salad spinner.

Hardy Herbs

Store by arranging the herbs lengthwise in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel or chux. Roll them up and transfer the bundle to a Ziploc bag, container or wrap in cling film. Store in the refrigerator and rinse before use.

Tender Herbs 

After washing (if you have a salad spinner), snip off the bases of the stems and remove any discoloured or wilted leaves. Transfer the herbs to a large jar or glass filled with 3-4cm of water at the base. This should resemble a small vase of flowers. Cover the top of the jar with an overturned plastic bag sealed with a rubber band, or a large Ziploc bag sealed around the glass in the same way. The soft herbs should last in their own encased microclimate for up to 7 days. Store in the refrigerator and rinse again before use.

Storing Basil 

Snip the base of the stems and place the bunch in a glass or jar with 3-4cm of water at the bottom, just like a bouquet of flowers. If the basil bunch was purchased in a plastic slip cover, keep that on to protect the sensitive leaves. Store at room temperature in a light area, but out of direct sunlight.

Drying

Sometimes you end up with more herbs than you know what to do with. In this case, the herbs can be dried for future use. Dried herbs can be used just like the ones you buy from the supermarket. Dry herbs are best reserved for purposes such as spice rubs or long cooked stews and sauces. You can dry herbs the microwave or by hanging in a cool, dry place to remove excess moisture.

Freezing

Frozen herbs can be substituted where most fresh herbs would normally be used. This is especially great for dishes where the herbs have been ever so slightly cooked. Frozen herbs are also particularly good for stirring into pasta sauces or other pan sauces at the last minute, or for making herb heavy sauces like pesto.

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