Here’s the scenario: you go to the store to get groceries for a recipe you want to make in a few days. You buy the necessary protein, grains, vegetables, or herbs to create your perfect dish. You bring these groceries home and store them. In a few days time, you pull out the ingredients to create your culinary masterpiece. There is just one problem: the herbs you purchased are slimy, brown, and no longer usable.
Know What You’re Working With
There are two types of herbs: soft herbs and hardy herbs. In order to make these herbs last, you have to store them differently. Before you learn how to store herbs, you have to know how to differentiate hardy from soft herbs. Fortunately, this is very easy.
- Soft herbs have tender stems and delicate green leaves. The stems are edible and may taste slightly bitter. Some common soft herbs include cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, and basil.
- Hardy herbs have woody stems, which you should not chop up or eat. They do not have a pleasant taste and the flavor you want is from the leaves. Examples of hardy herbs are oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
With the exception of basil (more on this later), most fresh herbs should be stored in the fridge. In order to make your hard or soft herbs last long in the fridge, though, you have to store them properly. That requires a small amount of preparation.
Why Do Herbs Go Bad?
If your herbs start to smell funny or the leaves turn dark, slimy, or moldy, you have to throw them out. There are a few reasons why they go bad, though, and we’ll detail them below:
- It’s possible that you chose herbs that were already going bad in the grocery store. Make sure to select herb bunches that do not have any wilted or discolored leaves. They should be very vibrant in color without any limp, discolored stems. Always do the sniff test to see if they have a pungent, fresh aroma.
- Herbs can take a turn for the worse when exposed to too much oxygen or light. An environment with too much oxygen causes herbs to brown quickly, while too much light can lead to yellowing leaves.
- If you do not pat the herbs dry before you store them, they will quickly become slimy and start to rot. If the leaves are too dry, they can turn brown and die.
- Temperature is probably the main reason herbs go bad. If you store herbs in areas of the fridge that are too cold, such as the back of the top shelf, they can freeze and start to become mushy and brown.
How To Store Soft Herbs In The Fridge
As a quick note, always wash your herbs before you store them. Some people have their own opinions about this because washing them adds moisture, which can cause them to decay. Bacteria can remain on the herbs if you don’t wash them. Just wash and dry your herbs before you put them in the fridge.
- Remove any rubber bands or fastenings that secure your herbs in their bundles when you buy them. These things can damage your herbs.
- Wash soft herbs in cool water to remove dirt and grime. You can do this in a large bowl until the water runs clear.
- Dry the leaves well in a salad spinner or by putting them on paper towels/linens and then patting them dry.
- Trim about one inch from the bottoms of the stems.
- Add the herbs stem side down in water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers. Fill a large glass about one-third of the way with water and place the herbs in the jar. Make sure the leaves do not touch the water.
- Cover herbs and the jars of water they are in with recycled bags, tucking the bags under the glass to create a tent.
- Place them just like this in the fridge, changing the water every few days to extend longevity.
What About Basil?
Unlike cilantro, parsley, or mint, basil is very delicate and not meant for the fridge. Trim the basil stems at a 45-degree angle about one inch from the bottom. Fill a jar about half-way with water and put the basil bunch in the water, ensuring the leaves don’t touch the water. Cover with a plastic bag so that it loosely fits over the bundle in the jar. Store at room temperature and trim the stems/change the water every few days.
How To Store Hardy Herbs
Just like soft herbs, you can store hardy herbs in the fridge. Begin by washing the herbs to remove any grime or bacteria before you do anything else, and then follow these next steps:
- Once you wash and pat the hardy herbs dry, trim about an inch off the stems. Wrap or roll the herbs in damp paper towels so that you cover them completely.
- Place the wrapped herbs in plastic sandwich bags and store them in the fridge.
- Without special care, hardy herbs tend to last longer in the fridge than soft herbs do. You can store them in a plastic container in the fridge if you don’t want to use plastic bags.
- If you keep these herbs in the little plastic containers they are often sold in, they’ll last about one week in the fridge.