Everyone’s written a story full of tips and tricks for storing herbs. We’ve read them all, just like you have, but we’ve also tried them all. (OK, almost all of them.)
Let the below be your once-and-for-all guide to keeping your herbs fresh for as long as possible. We’re talking about soft, leafy herbs, here—basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint—not more robust ones such as rosemary.
1. Start with choosing the best herbs. They should be crisp, and you should be able to smell them with your nose about three inches away from the leaves. Avoid holey, bruised leaves, andanything that generally looks like it’s been beached on a supermarket shelf for a couple days already. Bright, green, crisp—it’s common sense.
2. Don’t wash them yet! Doing so adds excess moisture to the leaves, which will shorten their storage lives because the dampness weighs them down. Wait until just before using the herbs to wash them.
3. Snip the base of the stems, just like you would a bouquet of fresh flowers, and place them in a glass with an inch of water. Don’t overcrowd the glass; if you’re finding that you’re shoving the stems in to fit them all, separate them into two glasses. They need room to breathe, just like you and me!
4. Cover them loosely with a plastic bag and store in the fridge. Except for the basil! That should stay at room temperature. When the water gets cloudy—every day or two—change it out.
Do those four things, and your herbs should stay crisp and green for about five days. Then, when it comes to putting them to tasty use:
1. Wash and dry: Whether you rinse straight under the faucet or swish in a bowl of cold water, one thing is a must: Your herbs should be bone-dry before you use them. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner or gently press between towels.
2. Shave: Unless you’re plating Paul Qui-style, you don’t need to clean your herbs leaf by leaf. Just hold the bunch by the stems with one hand, hold a sharp knife in the other, and shave the leaves by moving the knife along the stem away from your body. Watch the video above to see how it’s done.
3. Chop: These kinds of herbs are delicate, so slice through them with a sharp knife—the duller the knife, the more potential for bruising—and do so with a mound of leaves. Keep it at an easy, rough chop, and if you want to go even more rustic, just tear them (delicately, though).
And use more of them! When a dish feels like it’s missing “something,” it’s usually salt, acid, or freshness. Herbs brighten everything they touch.