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Herbs are one of my ultimate favorite plants to grow. They are super versatile in any way you can imagine. Not only do they brighten up your space, but their uplifting aroma is also perfect for setting a positive mood.
Herbs are also very potent that it has long been traditionally used for ayurvedic treatments. The essential oils extracted from these plants are known for their antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties to name a few. No wonder it is being incorporated in some of the bath and beauty products we have today.
Let’s not dismiss the fact too that herbs are edible. It can spruce up the taste of any meal from raw salad, to a savory dish, and even a sweet dessert. Thus, these plants are definitely a kitchen staple.
All that uses and more make herbs a basic commodity for any household. Nevertheless, just like any plant, herbs will in time drop their freshness too. As much as we like to use it on a daily basis, it is bound to eventually dry out and lose its color, taste, and aroma.
Fret not though!
There are simple ways we can do to help prolong the shelf life of herbs. In this article, we will share with you valuable tips and tricks to keep it fresh and available much longer. Moreover, we will also gladly include links to the best products you can use for storing your herbs.
- 1 5 ways to Keep Fresh Herbs Longer
- 2 Ways to Extend the Shelf Life of Fresh Herbs
- 2.1 Wash & dry your herbs thoroughly
- 2.2 Keep your herbs cool in the fridge
- 2.3 Freeze them up for future use
- 3 Wrapping Up:
5 ways to Keep Fresh Herbs Longer
Know your herbs well
Herbs come in various shapes, sizes, and sturdiness. And so, the approach to storing them may differ from one another. But to make things easier, we can classify the herbs here as either soft or hard.
You may consider it a soft herb if it has soft leaves with tender stems. This may include dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, and mint. Such herbs are abundant during the spring and fall seasons.
Meanwhile, hard herbs are those that come with firmer leaves and tougher or
woody stems. Herbs like bay, sage, chives, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are good examples of this classification. Most of which are in-season until early to mid-fall.
Factors Affecting the Freshness of your Herbs
Before anything else, you should know and understand the prevailing factors that can affect the shelf life of herbs. Here are the following:
Plants need water to grow. Even after the harvest, it still needs some moisture to maintain being fresh and hydrated. Storing herbs in an area without moisture can suck out all its water and leave it all dry. On the other hand, putting it in a place with too much moisture can also make it slimy and soggy.
Exposing your herbs to a minimal amount of light can help decrease the level of carbon dioxide. Thus, allowing it to retain its aroma longer. However, too much light exposure has its own adverse effects too. It can hasten the breakdown of Chlorophyll resulting in the yellowing of the herbs.
When herbs come into contact with oxygen, the enzyme within consequently breaks down. As a result, the herb losses its color and turns brown.Temperature
High temperatures create the perfect condition for pathogen growth. Thus, it increases the likelihood of spoilage. On the contrary, storing your herbs at low temperatures can help decrease the respiration rate. In effect, it slows its aging process thus prolonging the shelf life.
Ways to Extend the Shelf Life of Fresh Herbs
Wash & dry your herbs thoroughly
This is the most basic step in keeping your herbs fresh. Pathogens are one major cause of food spoilage. When growing or buying your herbs, you never know what type of microorganisms it comes into contact with. Thus, it is important to give your fresh herbs a good rinse before attempting to store it.
Washing it under cool running water for about a minute or so will do just fine. This will be enough to flush out soil, debris, and other organisms away from your herbs.
As mentioned earlier, too much moisture ain’t a good thing too. So, it is a must to dry your herbs after giving them a thorough wash. Removing the excess water will decrease its chances to decompose faster.
There are two ways to dry your herbs. First, you can lay your washed batches in the kitchen or paper towels. Allow the cotton to absorb the moisture until it fully dries out. Second, you can alternately use a salad spinner. This tool will help you shake off the water from the herbs much quicker.
Our top picks for paper towels:
Our top picks for salad spinners:
Keep your herbs cool in the fridge
Refrigeration is the easiest and most common way to prolong the shelf life of herbs and other fresh produce. The cool setting allows the plant to retain its moisture. Moreover, the enclosed space minimizes oxidation and keeps it free from dust.
With the exemption of basil, the approach to soft herbs is quite similar to how you care for a bouquet of flowers. They are best placed in a glass jar with about an inch of water. As for the leaves, cover it loosely with a plastic bag to encourage moisture retention.
Make sure to trim the tips of the stem before storing. Also, change the water every few days or so to keep the herbs refreshed.
Hard herbs call for a slightly different approach. Instead of putting it in water, hard herbs are best wrapped in a damp towel. Cover the bundle loosely and put it inside a resealable bag or an airtight container.
Store the wrapped hard herb inside the crisper drawer of your fridge. This compartment is being designed to have a lower humidity level. So, it is more likely to keep fresh produce last longer.
By refrigerating your fresh herbs, you can extend its shelf life by at least 7 to 10 days. This is long enough to give you a good supply for the entire week’s need.
Our top picks for glass jars:
Our top picks for resealable bags:
Freeze them up for future use
If you plan to use your herbs at a much later date, it is best to keep them frozen. Freezing your herbs helps to prolong its freshness for up to 12 months. So, imagine how convenient would it be to have readily-available fresh herbs right off your freezer.
There are different ways to freeze your herbs. But, I find these two methods produce better results – bare freezing and freezing in oil.
Bare freezing your herbs is the simplest and most straight-forward method. All you need is to lay your herbs on the baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can transfer them to an airtight container to seal in the freshness further. This method works best with hard herbs.
Another way to freeze is by mixing your herbs with oil. Olive oil is most often preferred. But, you can also use any other type you wish to cook with. This oil-based mixture is very convenient to use with soups and pasta sauces.
To prepare, start by removing the leaves from the stems. If you wish, you can freeze it as whole leaves. Place them in ice cube trays and fill the rest with oil. Alternatively, you can also use a food processor to roughly chop and blend the herbs and the oil. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays. Then freeze.
Whichever method you choose to prepare, this will surely lengthen the shelf life of your herbs. Just be aware though that whenever you thaw a frozen herb, it will already look limp. Thus, it is no longer appealing to use as a garnish. Rather, it is more apt for cooking dishes.
It is also quite expected for the frozen herb to lose a bit of its flavor and aroma. It might not have that same amount of kick as freshly-picked herbs. But, it is still good enough to impart that distinct herbal taste to your dish.
Our top picks for baking sheets:
Our top picks for ice cube trays:
Herbs are definitely amazing plants! They don’t just add a bit green to your space, or a whiff of relaxing aroma to a room. But, it is also a flavorful ingredient in a wide array of dishes too. Thus, it is an easy staple for most households.
Proper storage is the main key to keep the shelf life of your herbs last much longer. By doing so, you can ensure you will always have a fresh batch on hand ready to use any time you wish to at home.