How to Store Herbs to Make Them Last Longer and Taste Better
Proper storage of herbs (fresh or dried) is necessary to keep them fresh and flavorful for as long as possible. Whether you are trying to reap the rewards of an outdoor garden, a trip to the farmers market, or an ample dried herb supply, you can make them last much longer with a few careful steps. Here is a quick infographic guide to storing your herbs. And read below it for more details! (See also: Container Gardening Basics)
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Storing Fresh Herbs
Dried herbs are more convenient, but fresh herbs are more delicious. You'll need to do a few things to keep them fresh once you've gotten them home. Your fresh herbs will keep for about two weeks with this method.
Get Rid of Plastic Packaging
The first thing you will want to do is remove them from any plastic they may be in. The moisture that collects on the leaves while herbs are inside a plastic bag will speed up the decomposition process and cause them to turn slimy very quickly. (See also: Can I Eat This? A Quick Guide to Food Safety)
Spin and Pat Dry
If you have leafy green herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or mint, you will want to dry the leaves as much as possible. A salad spinner works great at removing any water on the leaves. After a run through the spinner, pat them dry with a paper towel.
Store in Water, Like Fresh Cut Flowers
Leafy herbs keep best in a glass of water, much like flowers do. And as with flowers, no leaves should touch the water, so trim off any from the stems that could come into contact with the water. (Use those first in your cooking or lay on a paper towel and roll up to store them for a couple of days.) Keep the glass in the front of the refrigerator. Every couple of days, empty the water and replace with fresh water. If you find excess water appearing on the leaves, wrap them in paper towels (making sure the towels do not touch the water). The paper towels will absorb the excess water.
Fresh herbs stored this way should last two weeks or more. However before they go bad, you have further options to preserve the flavor of the herbs.
Remove Leaves, Dry, Mince, and Freeze
Remove leaves from the stems and pat dry with a paper towel. Then mince the herbs to release the oils in them and place into ice cube trays. You can freeze the herbs with either olive oil (to be used in sauces or sauteing) or freeze in water. Herbs stored this way can last six months. (See also: Surprising Foods You Can Freeze)
Roll Up and Store Stemmy Herbs
Herbs that are attached to stems, such as oregano, thyme and rosemary, should be sandwiched between two dry paper towels in a single layer. Roll up the paper towel loosely and store in a zip top bag that is not closed completely. Keep this bag in the vegetable crisper in your refrigerator.
Storing Dried Herbs
Everyone has those dried herbs in their cupboard with a purchase date so long ago that we can't remember when we bought them. Sometimes, you need just a small amount for a recipe and then don't use it again for a year or more. Dried herbs will begin to lose their potency in as soon as six months, so next year when you try to use that flavoring, it may have lost most of its flavor. Storing dried herbs properly to keep them fresh for as long as possible is important. (See also: Flavorful Foods Worth Splurging On)
Keep Away From Heat and Light
The first rule for storing dried herbs is one most of us break. Heat damages the herbs, and storing them above or next to the stove is not advisable. A good place to store dried herbs is far from the stove, where the heat and moisture will not affect it.
Keep your herbs away from light, too. A dark area of a pantry (or in a spice cabinet that doesn't let in light) is a good place to keep them.
Freeze for Long-Term Storage
An even better place to store dried herbs is in an airtight container in the freezer. If you only use a small amount of a spice once a year, then store the remaining amount in the freezer and only remove as you need it. Keeping it in the freezer will hold the integrity of the spice for up to two years.
Whether you enjoy the convenience of dried herbs or have cultivated a fabulous herb garden, storing these flavorful plants takes a bit of diligence. Tossing out herbs before they can be used is no longer necessary. Enjoy the benefits and flavors of your herbs for months to come!
How do you keep your herbs fresh and flavorful?