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Storing Fresh Herbs - a Guide by a Herb Enthusiast.

Updated on November 20, 2013

Using and storing culinary herbs is somewhat similar to using and storing lettuce. Herbs need to be rinsed before use or preservation. Even if they were cultivated and picked in a very clean way, there can be some dust and sand on them. Delicate borage flowers can be used as such because they could be damaged when rinsed and they don't grow very close to the ground. Just use some common sense.

Short-term preservation.

Stored similar way as lettuce, the herbs will keep fresh for a short period of time refrigerated and kept in a closed plastic bag. This way of preservation is best suited for rosemary and thyme. The ideal storage temperature is over 43F. The most sensitive herbs, such as the leaves of basil and lemon balm, turn brown if stored in too cold.

You can also store herbs for a short period, two weeks at most, in cool water. There should be only little water in the container, so the herbs don't get too soggy. Remove the leaves near the stem and cut new suction surface daily. Also change the water and clean the container daily. If the herbs are too tightly packed in the water, they go bad more quickly.

Commercial potted herbs can be stored in their packaging in a refrigerator. If they dry up, you need to water them. Too low temperature should also be avoided.

Avoid storing fresh herbs with ethylene rich fruit and vegetables. Ethylene is a colorless gas that evaporates from plants, fruits, and vegetables when they ripen, age, or decompose. It accelerates the aging process of green plants and turns them yellow. Most ethylene is excreted from passion fruits, apples, bananas, peaches, pears, avocados, honeydew melons, and kiwi fruits.

Long-term preservation.

You can store fresh herbs in little bit of oil or vinegar. You can shred some herbs into a jar and add oil while stirring. Make sure all the herbs are oiled. Then add some more oil until all the herbs are covered. These herbs can be used to season all dishes that allow the use of oil. Vinegar can also be used but the herbs are only good for salads after that.

Freezing is a good preservation method. The herbs are frozen as whole twigs or leaves packed into foil, plastic bag or box. When icy, they are easy to be crushed using a rolling pin. The twigs can be cut to tiny pieces using scissors and added to the rest of the herbs. You can also use the twigs in stews and remove them before serving.

You can quickly boil the herbs up before freezing. This way they retain their color a little bit better. Boiling them isn't necessary though.

Drying is an old way to preserve herbs. When dried they retain their aroma for a couple of months to a year. If you have some excess fresh herbs, you can tie little bundles to a string and leave hanging in regular room air. Keep the herbs out of light to better retain their aroma. Drying will take two weeks to a month to using this technique.

Herbs are dried fast in warm air and even more faster if they've been stripped to separate leaves. You can use a commercial dehydrator or a regular electric oven. If you're using an oven, spread a thin layer of herbs onto the grid and make sure the temperature stays below 95F. Still warm, the herbs are packed into an air-tight and lightproof container. You don't want the herbs to suck the humidity from the air. Make sure your herbs are absolutely crisp dry before packaging so they don't mildew.


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