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How to Extend the Life of Fresh Herbs

If you’ve ever felt like fresh herbs wilt and rot even though you just got them, then you’ve come to the right place! In this article I am going to walk you through how to prep, store, and freeze fresh herbs so that they stay fresh and last long! 

shot of  fresh herb basil growing in a pot

Fresh herbs aren’t always the easiest to store. They tend to spoil, wilt and turn into a brown mush in just a couple days of getting them home. Considering how much I use them in my kitchen, I feel like I have tried everything under the sun to extend the life of my fresh herbs. 

When it comes to preserving fresh herbs, a little prep goes a long way. If prepared correctly, most herbs can stay fresh in the fridge for about 2 to 3 weeks. It is also possible to freeze herbs which can then be used in stir fries, sauces, pasta or soups. 

Soft vs. hardy herbs: 

In order to store fresh herbs correctly, it is important to know the type of herb you are working with. Herbs are mainly divided into two categories – soft and hardy depending on the type of stem it has. 

Soft herbs have a tender stem which is generally edible. Whereas hardy herbs have a woody stem that needs to be discarded. Examples of soft herbs would be coriander, basil, parsley, mint etc. Whereas hardy herbs include curry leaves, dill, rosemary, thyme, etc.   

How to store soft herbs like coriander, mint, and parsley

  • Step 01: Free the bunch by getting rid of any rubber band or jute coir that’s holding together. This allows the herbs to breathe. 
  • Step 02: Place the whole bunch in a large bowl and clean it to get rid of any dirt or other impurities. I like to gently swish everything around to separate the dirt and continue to change water until it runs clean. 
  • Step 03: Next, dry everything out thoroughly. Gently wipe with a clean dish towel to remove excess water and then allow the herbs to air dry until they’re completely dry. 
  • Step 04: Trim the bottom of the stems by about half an inch. Fill a mason jar or any glass jar with one to two inches of water and place the herbs upright, making sure no leaves are touching the water.  
  • Step 05: Finally, wrap the leaves in clear plastic and put it in the refrigerator. Change the water every couple of days and trim the stems as needed to keep everything fresh for up to 2 weeks! 

Tip: An exception to this is Basil which is a soft herb too, but it’s very delicate and doesn’t last in the refrigerator. Fill a mason jar with about an inch of water and place basil stems upright like a bouquet in it. But instead of covering it with plastic or placing it in the fridge, simply place it on a well-lit corner of your kitchen counter. Make sure it’s sure away from direct sunlight and change the water as needed to make sure your basil stays fresh and fragrant.  

How to store hard herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano 

  • Step 01: Wash everything thoroughly to get rid of any dirt and dry everything thoroughly. 
  • Step 02: Trim the ends of the stems by about an inch. 
  • Step 03: Wrap the entire bunch in a damp paper towel, put it in a zip lock bag or an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. 

And voila! You are done. The good thing about storing fresh hardy herbs is that once they’re prepped and in the fridge, it’s pretty hands off until you are ready to cook them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Should you be washing herbs before storing them?

There seems to be a lot of debate about whether you should be washing your herbs or not before storing them. Personally, I prefer to wash my herbs before storing them because herbs can be covered in a lot of dirt, which can end up rotting and spoiling them faster. However, if you do wash your fresh herbs before storing them in the refrigerator, make sure to dry them out thoroughly by wiping them with a clean cloth and then allowing them to air dry. Moisture on the leaves can also lead to faster wilting and spoiling, which we definitely don’t want. 

  1. How long do herbs stay in the fridge? 

If prepped right, herbs can easily stay in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Every few days, check the herbs and take out any leaves that are starting to rot. This will keep the whole bunch fresher longer.

  1. Can you freeze fresh herbs? 

Absolutely! If frozen right, most herbs are very freezer-friendly and are able to retain most of that bright, herby flavour of fresh herbs. However, the process of defrosting makes the herbs lose a bit of colour and shape, so I wouldn’t use them as garnish or in salads. But they are still perfect to add to soups, stir fries, pasta or sauces. 

  1. Hardy herbs: Hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, or dill are best frozen as individual sprigs. Keep the stem on the herbs and spread them individually on a baking sheet or tray. Transfer it to the freezer and leave it in there for a few hours until completely frozen. Transfer the stems to a ziploc bag or a freezer-friendly. Simply take out one sprig at a time and use as needed.   
  1. Soft herbs: There are a couple different ways to store soft herbs like coriander, parsley or mint. You can either store them in water, broth, oil or butter. Separate the leaves from the stem and chop them up. Pack a clean ice cube tray with the herbs, with water, broth, olive oil or melted butter and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer individual cubes into ziploc bags for ease of use later. When you want to use it, simply thaw it out and add to the dish as needed. Herbs frozen in oil can easily last for about 6 months without losing too much flavour. 

Tip – make sure to wash and thoroughly dry the leaves before freezing them. Moisture can change the flavour, colour and texture of the herb. So make sure to wipe the herbs with a clean dish towel to wick away any excess moisture.  

Can I dry herbs to preserve them? 

Some fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme can even be dried to extend their life. You can use an oven or a dehydrator to do this. Simply line individual sprigs or leaves in a single line on a baking tray or parchment paper. Place it in the oven or dehydrator and dry the leaves on a low temperature (89-90F) for a couple of hours or until completely dried. To sun-dry fresh herbs make a small bunch by tying the stems together with a twine. Hang them upside near a window or on your balcony until the leaves are completely dry and start to easily crumble.  

shot of fresh herbs being cut on a wooden chopping board

Once you start preserving fresh herbs using the above-mentioned methods, you’ll realise just how easy and versatile they are to work with. 

Here are some recipes you can make with frozen herbs:

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