Easy Food Prep Tip: Herb Storage

Wow. That sounds really boring. I cannot tell a lie. It sort of is. But it’s also one of my kitchen routines that I feel strongly about, so I’m sharing it anyway. If you’ve decided to keep reading, grab a cup of coffee and try to stay awake. I’ll keep this as short or as entertaining as possible. Thanks for sticking with me.

Today, I’m washing and storing Italian flat-leaf parsley and cilantro. These two are like family. They’re always in the house, always in the fridge, and if you don’t show them some love, they’ll wither and die. I’ve learned that if I invest a little time in prepping them when they come home from the store, I can make them last longer. Let’s break it down. DJ…can I get a beat?

Home in a plastic store bag & unwashed = rotten in 3-4 days
Washed, prepped & bagged properly = good for 7-10 days

Step 1 – a bath & a trip to the carnival
I try to wash and prep my herbs within 24 hours of bringing them home from the store. I give them a cold water bath and a quick trip to the carnival with a long ride in the Salad Spinner. Then I dump them out onto paper towels on my counter so I have room to work. Each herb gets their own little party pad.

Step 2 – stem those little suckers
This step is especially important for the Italian parsley. Those stems gotta go. Yes, this step takes a little time, but the end result is worth it. Those little beauties will be all dressed up with their make-up on and ready to party if you spend a little spa time up front. Ha! That’s what SHE said!

The cilantro is a little different. Big stems are out, but little, thin stems can stay.

Once each herb is stemmed and ready to roll, fold the paper towels they’re sitting on as if you’re diapering a baby – opposite corners together, bottom folded up, then top folded down. If you’re not familiar with baby diapering, think of it as making a paper towel envelope around your herbs. It’s okay if the paper towels are slightly damp. You just don’t want them to be more than slightly damp. Place into labeled freeze bags and press most of the air out. If you’re really organized, you can write the date on the bag along with the name. Or you can be like me and peek in the bag. If it looks good, great! If it’s mushy and looks like a garden slug, it’s time to toss it out. Gross? Sure…but effective.

Place your herb bags in the vegetable bin in your fridge, and try not to stack anything on top of them. If you don’t have a veggie bin or use yours to store beer, pickles and Ding Dongs, stand them up on a shelf somewhere. Just try not to crush them, and don’t push them against the back wall of your fridge. It’s too cold back there, which can cause frost damage. Don’t throw your stems in the trash. Send them down the garbage disposal to make your kitchen smell good. I do the same thing with citrus fruits, once they’re juiced. That’s it! You’re ready to save money by having herbs that last longer, and time by having herbs that are ready to go when you need them. Simple and sensible. That’s how I like it.

Okay. I hid the caramel sauce behind the peppers for this photo. So what!?!



Filed under Food & Recipes

10 responses to “Easy Food Prep Tip: Herb Storage

  1. This is how we store ours too, and I agree 100%, a little time spent when you get home from the store, saves you a lot of wasted soggy herbs in the long run! I do the same thing with heads of romaine or leafy lettuce, except I stack it in a tupperware pitcher so it “stands up”, and place papertowels between the rows. It also lasts MUCH longer this way!
    My latest quest is to figure out how to keep basil, rosemary and some of those types of herbs from our garden this summer, so I can use them through the winter. Do you dry them? Can you freeze them? Any tips?

    • I also wash and spin my leaf lettuce and place it between layers of paper towels, but I store them in gallon zip bags in my veggie bin. I’ve never thought about standing lettuce up in a plastic pitcher. It makes perfect sense, especially if the pitcher has a tight-fitting lid. Genius!

      For basil, I’ve heard that you can snip the bottoms off the stems and place them in a glass with about 1″ of water like you would for fresh flowers, but with less water. You can set it on your kitchen counter, and change the water every day or two. Don’t put them in direct sunlight. I’ve heard this works, but I can’t confirm it since I mostly use dried basil. I would chop the chives and place them in small airtight containers in the freezer. I think they lose some of their flavor when they’re dried.

      For herbs like rosemary, oregano, sage, and thyme – I would dry them. A food dehydrator works best, if you have one. My mother used to place the leaves onto paper-towel lined cookie sheets. Then she would turn the oven on just to warm it, then turn it off and place the tray of herbs in the oven. You might have to repeat the process several times. If you live in a dry climate, you should also be able to lay them out on paper towel lined cookie sheets and let them air dry on a counter or in a sunny window sill. You can also leave rosemary, sage or thyme on their stems and tie them into bunches, hanging them upside down to dry. The key is to make sure your herbs are completely dry before storing them or they can mold. If you want to store them fresh, try wrapping them in paper towels and then loosely wrapping them in plastic wrap. Using a fork, poke a series of air holes in the plastic wrap so your herbs can “breathe” and store them in the vegetable bin in your refrigerator.

      If you want to freeze your basil, I’ve read that you can lay the leaves out onto a paper towel lined cookie sheet, place the cookie sheet in the freezer until the leaves are completely frozen, then place the frozen leaves into an airtight freezer container. My concern with this method would be freezer burn from ice crystals. It seems like everything I store in my freezer ends up with ice crystals after a few weeks or months. Let me know what you try, and what you think of the results.

      • Thank you SO much for the good info!!!!! I am filing this away and plan to try it this summer! Yes, my tupperware pitcher has a nice tight oval lid that seals, LOVE it! :)

  2. Great tips! I usually just put mine in a bag with a fresh paper towel and call it good. They usually last about a week or so. I’ve never washed & stemmed the herbs first, although I am intrigued enough to try.

    My only real vegetable storage prep: I store celery wrapped in paper towel, then in aluminum foil, and it keeps for about a month! I put a paper towel in the romaine or spinach bags to absorb moisture, too. I wash everything just before I use it. I think I’ll try your methods next time.

    P.S. That’s a whole mess of peppers in that jar!

    • I’m totally going to try your celery wrapped in aluminum foil trick! I wrap mine in paper towels and put it in a freezer bag, but it still wilts and shrivels in a week. And those pepperoncini peppers and pitted kalamata olives are my pickled passion right now. I’ve been eating them almost every day. Last night, it was a Greek pasta salad I made with the end of PW’s “Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing” and chopped cucumber, tomato, kalamatas, pepperoncinis, and some flat leaf Italian parsley. Just as I suspected – that salad dressing made an awesome pasta salad!

  3. DJ can I get a beat? You’re so silly, I wanna know where the wine is located in your fridge that you were sippin’ on when you wrote this? How in the world do you make herb storage funny? But you did! I’m with a previous comment – I usually wrap in a damp rag, in a bag, call ‘er done. I might have to try this next time since my herb growing days aren’t going to happen this year.

  4. Kat

    We only just started re-bagging our parsley and cilantro. I had NO idea about the stem trick – thank you for that one lady! I owe you big time!

  5. cindy

    No wonder they always go bad. Love you more and more each post. Just got home from the HLSR with my girls so my judgement may be a little impaired. LOL

    • You’re posting a comment just before midnight? On a week night? After going to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo? You’re going to feel that today. That’s what rodeo is famous for – great music, smelly animals, foods on sticks and cold beer. I didn’t go this year, and I kinda missed it. Hope you and your girls had a wonderful time (and a deep fried Twinkie)!

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