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The Best Ways to Store Fresh Herbs

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: A lesson on keeping your fresh herbs fresh.

Fresh herbs from Food52

There are few things as inspiring as a beautiful bunch of fresh herbs. We love you, salt and pepper, but only fresh herbs have the special power to transform a dish with nothing more than a few small leaves.

It’s fun to buy beautiful bouquets of fresh parsley, sage, and thyme on your Sunday market trip, and to envision all of the beautiful meals you will make in the coming week. (It’s even better when you can buy them at the farmers' market and impulse-buy a cider donut or kettle corn.)

But what happens by the time Thursday rolls around, and those perky green herbs have turned wilted and swampy in the fridge, just when you're about to whip up a batch of pesto?

Say goodbye to dull, limp herbs. Here’s how to keep your fresh herbs fresh all week long.

Fresh herbs from Food52

First, sort your herbs:

Herbs fall into two categories: hard and soft. Soft herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon have soft, tender stems. Hard herbs have woody stems and include rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and thyme.

Read more: How to dry your herbs.

Fresh herbs from Food52

Next, store them properly:

Now that you’ve organized your fresh herbs, store them so they last.

Soft herbs like to be treated like a bouquet of flowers. Snip the bases of the stems and put them into a glass of fresh water, changing out the water every day or two if it starts to cloud. Basil should be kept at room temperature, but other soft herbs should be loosely covered with a plastic bag, then placed in the fridge.

Read more: How to preserve fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs from Food52  Fresh herbs from Food52

Store your hard herbs by wrapping them first in a damp paper towel, then loosely in plastic wrap before placing them in your crisper. If you’re going green, a damp kitchen towel and an airtight container work perfectly well. 

A final tip: Don’t wash fresh herbs until they are ready to be used -- it will add excess moisture and waste time.  

What are your tips for keeping herbs fresh? Let us know in the comments!

 

Tags: herbs, storage, how to store fresh herbs, how-to & diy

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Comments (19)

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4 months ago charlene smith

I love cooking with fresh herbs and buy them regularly, but I always end up tossing some portion of what I purchase before it gets used up. ... Until, I came across a tip about how to freeze fresh herbs. I was amazed at how well the technique works, and how fresh the herbs stay. Whatever herbs I haven't used 2-3 days after they come home from the store, I freeze. I bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then blanch the herbs for about 20-30 seconds. Remove the herbs from the boiling water and rinse under cold water. Pat dry, and store in freezer bags in the freezer. Blanching kills the enzymes on the leaves that allow the herbs to continue to ripen, and eventually turn black and go bad. Once they're blanched, the herbs stay bright green, even once frozen, and maintain their wonderful fresh flavour. Here's a link with specific instructions for freezing various types of herbs. http://www.chatelaine.com...

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3 months ago dawn reinard

Awesome tip thank you!! I will try that today!

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6 months ago Miranda Joyce Childe

After years of buying fresh one tiny expensive bunch at a time, I have saved several of the flat, self-closing containers they come in, so now I can get less pricey herbs at markets. I just wrap them in paper towel, as your article suggests, and I find that the herbs last up to a month if you use them frequently and weed out the yellowish ones as they appear. Keep the paper towel free of slimy black residue and you have a "fridge" herb garden!

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6 months ago Gret

And I do what Mouse does with basil! Favorite part of my small backyard veggie garden is how much tomatoes & basil, my garden will produce. Also make various pesto's with the herbs, for the freezer.

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6 months ago Mouse

Yes, I do this too--parsley in water in a jar with a plastic bag over it. It works. But if you want to store it for longer, check out Margaret Roach's trick at her website, A Way To Garden. She picks off the leaves, rolls it up into a log in a freezer bag, and secures with a rubber band. Then in the middle of winter you can take out the frozen roll, and cut off as much as you need. The texture of course isn't the same as fresh, but great for stews, soups, etc. Very practical for gardeners who grow a lot of parsley.

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about 1 year ago Dina Moore-Tzouris

you guys should repost this--so timely, as we're all harvesting our basil or getting herbs at the farmer's market, only to have them looking pathetic two days later if not following proper storage rules....thanks for this!

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over 1 year ago timbrel2

I always try keeping basil at room temperature. In 3 days I have a limp, unattractive and unusable bunch. I'm going to do anything else but that next time. Herbs are too expensive to waste

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over 1 year ago Gret

I ALWAYS wash my herbs, because I'm not going to put dirt into fridge! The basil, I put stems or roots into water & lightly cover with plastic in fridge.The other herbs, I do as la greca,5 below.

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over 1 year ago Kerry James

Should the basil still be covered loosely with a plastic, in a glass of water out of the fridge?

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over 1 year ago The Queen Of Dreaming

Great, great advice!! :)

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over 1 year ago Robert

I don't understand the tip that says don't wash herbs until you are ready to use them because it will add water and waste time. I wash them and store them as soon as they come home (or in from the garden) Then they are clean and dry when I want to use them. No washing or drying needed!

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over 1 year ago Shamika Thomas-Ellis

OMG! You have no idea how much this has helped as I stopped buying fresh herbs as they were dying too fast. Now I know what to do, thank you! :)

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over 1 year ago la greca

I wrap parsley and dill in dry paper towel and put them in a plastic bag - the one I used to buy them - and put them in the fridge. Still fresh 3 weeks later. I leave rosemary and thyme dry in a glass on the counter - they dry naturally and can also be used for ages. Ahhh basil - I can only love you within a few days.

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over 1 year ago Grace

Parsley is the worst for me! It seems to be wilted before I even get it home from the store!!

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over 1 year ago Pat in SoCal

I love parsley! I wash it, shake it dry, snip the ends and put it in a vase behind my sink. That way it's front and center for easy and frequent use. It easily lasts a week without refridgeration. I do the same with dill. It lasts even longer and both are perfect kitchen bouquets next to my potted basil.

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over 1 year ago Jennifer Hamlin

I just add them to my salad spinner and they stay fresh for weeks!

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over 1 year ago Gret

In our supermarket the herbs are in small plastic containers. I usually keep them in this container, but should I be taking them out?

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over 1 year ago ihaventpoisonedyouyet

I've followed this method and it's worked very well. Always have trouble w/basil though. The plastic bags you can usually buy in the markets produce section - the ones that absorb gases emitted by the plant matter seem to extend the freshness factor well past a week...again, except for that damn basil.

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over 1 year ago Kristin Hogan

I, too, separate my hard and soft herbs {as you describe above} and then I place each bunch into a small mason or Weck glass jar with about a 1/2 inch of water at the bottom. Finally, I place a plastic bag {usually the one the herbs were brought home in from the store or farmers market} loosely over each bunch and store in the refrigerator. The herbs, especially the soft leafy ones such as parsley + cilantro, stay incredibly fresh for weeks.