How to Store Fresh Herbs

Herbs laid out on cloth
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Are you tired of having fresh herbs go bad before you get around to using them? You may want to keep fresh mint around longer for your mojito, or fresh cilantro for recipes. A simple change in how you store your fresh herbs could make them last days longer, or even weeks longer. Just follow these simple storage instructions.

Storing Soft/Bushy Herbs Like Fresh Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Mint, Parsley

Trim the stems. Then, place the herbs in a vase or jar of cool water. Be sure to remove any leaves that fall below the water line. Basil and mint do best at room temperature, so store these herbs on a sunny windowsill. For all other herbs listed above, the refrigerator is best. Cover your bouquet loosely with a plastic bag, and chill until you need it. To keep your herbs fresh for as long as possible, trim the stems and change the water every couple of days. Wash just prior to use.

Storing Woody Herbs Like Fresh Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Wrap your herbs in a damp paper towel or dish towel. Then, slide the towel into a plastic bag or storage container, and place in the refrigerator. Remoisten the paper towel as needed (you want it to be slightly damp, but not soggy). Wash your herbs just prior to use.

How to Dry Fresh Herbs

Use the steps outlined above to store as much as you think you'll be able to use in the next week or so. Then, preserve the rest to enjoy later. Herbs are a cinch to dry.

Just gather your herbs in small bundles; secure them with rubber bands; and hang them upside down in a warm, dry room. Allow them to dry for two to three weeks. Then, check on their progress. Your herbs are ready, when they feel dry to the touch and crumble easily in your hand.

If you want to speed up the drying process, you can also dry herbs in a dehydrator, a low-temp oven or a microwave. Just know that the flavor will be diminished slightly if you decide to go the microwave route. That's because microwaving robs the herbs of some of their oils.

Store your dried herbs in an airtight container in your pantry. Be sure to shake the jar once a day for the first few days to evenly distribute any moisture that remains in the herbs. This will prevent them from molding.

Dried herbs maintain their freshness longer when they're stored whole, but some people prefer the convenience of storing their herbs crumbled. Do whatever works best for you. Either way, your herbs are sure to taste fresher than anything you can buy at the store.

How to Freeze Fresh Herbs

Flash freeze whole herbs (like basil and chives) on a cookie sheet. Then, transfer the frozen herbs to a freezer bag. If you plan to use the herbs finely minced. Go ahead and do your chopping now. Then, pack the herbs into an ice cube tray, and top off the tray with olive oil or water, and freeze. Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag, so they don't get freezer burned.

Ice cube trays vary in size, but one cube should be the equivalent of about two tablespoons of fresh herbs. If you'll be using your herbs in cooked dishes, there's no need to thaw the cubes first. Just add them directly to the pan; they'll melt quickly enough.