Fresh herbs are the top secret weapon that every good cook has in their fridge, like a super power in a bag. Think about it. The sunny smell of fresh basil on tomatoes in the summertime. Hard to forget, and so simple. If you’ve got the tricks, you can go from a plastic plate to fine china with just a few sprinkles. While fresh herbs are growing on every patio in August, come October they can only be found at the gourmet food store. How can we think like a chef and prepare our fresh herbs to last a few weeks instead of only a few days. What about a way to easily use our herbs every time we need them?
Know your herbs
Fresh herbs can transform a ho-hum recipe into a hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark dish. But If you don’t follow steps to process your herbs, your $5 investment will quickly turn into a slimy and gross mess. With proper preparation fresh herbs can last a week and sometimes several. In order to decide which is the best method to process our herbs we need to first determine whether they are delicate, or woody. Delicate herbs are more leafy, and tend to perish quickly. Woody herbs have thicker stems, hearty leaves, and stronger flavor.
Examples of Leafy Herbs
Examples of Woody Herbs
Processing Delicate Herbs for use within 24 hours
Washing your herbs
Take off rubber bands and wash your herbs by soaking for a minute in water. If you are concerned about bacteria or parasites, add a tablespoon of food grade hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice or white vinegar. Soak for 5 minutes. If your herbs are dirty you may want to change the water a few times. Finish by running under water to wash off extra dirt that has become loosened. Shake herbs off in the sink to remove extra water. Spread them out on a towel to dry for five minutes.
- When dry cut the roots down so the herb will easily fit into a small mason jar or water glass
- Fill the container with water to the halfway point
- Put your herbs in a glass on the counter, covered with plastic so the plant still can still get air
Sunlight or not
Store all delicate herbs except basil away from the light. Basil can be stored in the sunlight. If it starts to turn brown put it in the shade. If you really want your herbs to last, check them daily and change their water. Take out any stems that turn brown or slimy.
Preserving Herbs for longer than 24 hours
Storing in the refrigerator
This procedure can be used for both delicate and woody herbs. Follow the steps above for washing your herbs. Once dry, wrap moist herbs in paper towel and place in a ziplock bag. Before you seal it, push the air out from the bottom. Clearly label and date your bag. Store in the fridge in a place where the bag will not be crushed.
Tip-Do not cut up herbs until you are ready to use as the whole plant will last longer
Freeze into ice cubes
Freezing fresh herbs into ice cubes is an easy way to have delightful herbal flavor any time you want. This technique works best for delicate herbs, but can also be used for woody herbs. Storing our herbal ice cubes in labeled bags is an efficient way to add our deliciousness to any dish. Just throw one ice cube each of oregano, basil and rosemary into your tomato sauce and voila! restaurant worthy spaghetti sauce in an instant.
- Wash herbs as explained above
- For delicate herbs simply chop the entire herb finely
- For woody herbs take leaves off the stem and chop those finely
- Fill clean ice cube trays with chopped herbs
- Leave a half an inch of space at the top
- Add water so it is full but not overflowing
- Freeze herbs on a flat surface in freezer until hard
- Take ice cubes out of container and place into a ziplock bag
- Label and date the bag
- Store in the freezer
Tools needed for processing herbs
- clean glass jars, different sizes
- plastic wrap
- clean empty ice cube trays
- ziplock bags 1 quart and 1 gallon size
- cutting board
- good sharp knife
- sticky labels
Try to take preservation steps within 24 hours of purchasing or picking your herbs. If you plan to process more then one herb in a session, stay organized. Clean up between herbs and cross the one you have processed off your list. It is best to toss fresh herbs when leaves are discolored, and when there are slimy or wet parts.
The fun part
I know this sounds like alot of work, but it is so worth it. If you have time constraints, as we all do, try to do a little preservation every day. When all the herbs are in season I try to keep at least three bunches in my refrigerator. While I am making dinner I throw one herb and some water in a blender and pour it into an ice cube tray to freeze. The next day I label my bag and do the next herb. When it is snowing outside, you will be cosy and warm making pesto out of your summer-kissed basil. I hope that you will smile and think of me.
“The best way to store herbs-tips and tricks” is the fourth post of the series “Eating Outside”. If you are in the mood for more nature, please visit our other posts Field Tea- Foraging for beverage fun , Eating Outside, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss, and Helen Keller.
“The best way to store herbs- tips and tricks” first appeared on the blog L.S.Lvewell. For more info about what we do here, visit our “About” page. Copyright 2018 Lisa Shaub.