Professional chefs and home cooks use herbs to add massive amounts of flavor to dishes. There are some herbs, on the other hand, that are only used as garnish. You would normally add herbs such as lemongrass at the start of the cooking process, while you would add rosemary and thyme in midway through. Herbs like basil, coriander, oregano, and mint are added towards the end as a finishing touch. You could use them for pastas, salads, main courses, and even desserts!
Of course, you may already know what herbs to use and when to use them. You may even be growing these herbs yourself in the backyard. What you may not know though is how to keep your herbs as fresh as possible for long. This guide could hopefully teach you how to get the most out of your herbs for a really long time. Here are three super easy methods to so.
Aromatic, Warm-Weather Herbs
The technique you could use to keep herbs fresh could depend on the climate from which the herbs you want
to store come from. For instance, more aromatic herbs such as rosemary or sage come from the Mediterranean region. Herbs from this part of the world can thrive on only small amounts of water, so you don’t need to submerge them. You would know that you are working with a warm-weather herb if their stems and leaves have a woody or coarse feel to them.
If you’re sure that the herb you have is from a warmer climate, then all you need to do to keep them as fresh as possible is to wrap them in a paper towel. It would also be a good idea to tie a string around them to make little packages. Afterwards, put these wrapped herbs in a Ziploc bag to guarantee maximum freshness for a long period of time. You can then put these bags in the fridge or in a dark cabinet. Just make sure that some air can circulate. If you store aromatic herbs this way, then they can stay fresh for up to a week or two.
Herbs from a Colder Climate
On the other hand, you could be working with cool-weather herbs. These herbs have softer stems and leaves, and include cilantro, dill, and mint. Compared to their warm-weather counterparts, these herbs need a lot more water to survive. If you keep them out of the water, then you’ll see that they will dry up in no time at all. If cool-weather herbs are stored probably, then they may even grow – all the more incentive for properly storing your herbs.
The way you preserve these herbs is much different. This method involves a clear glass jar and, surprisingly enough, a clear plastic bag. The first step in this method involves cutting off the bottom of the stems. You need to be careful, though, as snipping off too much could mean that you waste some edible parts of the herbs that you’re working with. You only want to remove the dirty and the tough, inedible parts of the herb. Also make sure that the herbs you will use are completely dry, as storing wet herbs could decrease their lifespan. Just wash them when you are ready to cook them.
The next step involves partially filling a clear glass jar with water. A drinking glass works just as well for this step. You should then place the stems in the water, making sure that every end is submerged in the clear water. Afterwards, loosely cover the leaves in a clear plastic bag to allow light to get through. Should you start to see some discoloration in the water, you should change it as soon as possible.
Depending on the type of herb that you’re using, you may want to keep it outside – maybe near a window sill or a shelf where it can get some sunlight – or in the refrigerator. As a rule of thumb, cilantro should be stored in the cooler temperatures of the refrigerator, while parsley can survive in both the refrigerator as well as in a room temperature environment. You should never store basil in a cold place; however, as the lower temperatures can damage it. Herbs stored using this technique can stay fresh for up to two weeks from when the stems are cut off.
The last method of storing fresh herbs involves using the freezer. This option is more suitable if you are looking at long-term storage. You have multiple options if you are planning to store herbs in the freezer and it more or less comes down to convenience.
The first option you have is to just chop the herbs, chuck them in a Ziploc bag, and put them in the freezer. This is the quickest option available, but it can also leave your herbs with freezer burn because of their high surface area to volume ratio. If you’re not careful, you may end up damaging the herbs instead of keeping them fresh.
Another way to store herbs for freezing is by first quickly blanching and then chilling them. Afterwards, you can put the herbs in an ice cube tray and cover them with water. You can also skip the blanching part of this method. Just chop up the fresh herbs then put them in an ice cube tray with clean water.
Your last option is similar to the previous one. It also involves chopping up the herbs and then placing them in an ice cube tray. This time; however, the herbs are submerged in a neutral oil such as canola or grapeseed oil. This option was found to work the best. If you have Ziploc bags available, then it would be even better if you stored the submerged herbs in there. Flattening the herbs out before storing them in the freezer will allow the herbs to freeze quicker. It is also easier to cut off parts of this frozen herb sheet compared to dunking entire cubes of herbs into a dish.
If you’re looking to store fresh herbs, it is important to know what kind it is. Is it a warm-weather herb or is it one from a colder climate? The technique you will use to store them depends on your answer to that question. Your method will also vary depending on how long you plan to store them. Freezing your herbs in oil could be the way to go if you want to save them for a very long time.