How many times have you bought a fresh bunch of rosemary or basil for a recipe, only to find it in your fridge just a few days later, wilted and brown? Even though we know that cooking with fresh herbs can mean the difference between a mediocre meal and one bursting with flavor, it's really frustrating to, quite literally, throw money away. What a waste.
Some of those herbs can be fairly pricey; and if you need more than one type for a recipe, you can easily throw down $10 on these flavorful stems alone. You could create an entire meal with that money or you could treat yourself to a nice brunch. There are countless ways you could better spend your money than on the 48-hour fleeting freshness of herbs.
But lucky for us, there's a simple solution. Those of us who don't have access to a garden of fresh herbs can still cook with them without feeling wasteful -- the secret is in how you store them. There are quite a few tricks we can turn to that can make fresh herbs last in their brightest green state for about two weeks. So if you don't have the space, or the green thumb, to grow your own herbs, worry not. You still have a few options:
The Flower Bouquet Method
If you think about it, fresh herbs are very similar to cut flowers -- they need water too. First you should trim the stems, and then place them in a cup of cold water. Change the water and trim the stems every 1-2 days for best results. This little extra effort could mean that your herbs stay fresh for over two weeks. If working with basil or mint, it's recommended that you keep the herbs at room temperature. Mint in particular will thrive on the windowsill. Cilantro and parsley prefer colder temperatures. It's best to cover the tops of the herbs with a loose plastic bag and refrigerate them. Keeping them in the door compartment will provide the most optimal temperature, since its the warmest part of the fridge.
The Wrapping Method
If storing your herbs in water makes you a little nervous, (i.e. you're afraid you'll knock over the glass while rummaging through your fridge), the wrapping method may be best suited for you. This method tells you to wrap fresh herbs in a wet paper towel and store them in a resealable bag. The idea behind this is to keep the herbs in a moist -- not wet -- environment. You should check on them every couple of days, and if the paper towel feels dry you can either spray the bag with a bit of water or re-wrap the herbs in new moist paper towels. Place them in your crisper or the door compartment for the best results.
This method works particularly well for herbs such as cilantro and parsley, though can be used with any herb. If dealing with rosemary or thyme a more subtle approach should be practiced, as these woodier herbs tend to mold if around too much water -- be sure that the paper towels aren't too moist and check on them every couple of days.
The "Green" Wrapping Method
If you are "greening" your kitchen and want to avoid using plastic bags and paper towels, another successful method for keeping your herbs fresh is to wrap them in a moist kitchen towel -- no plastic bag necessary -- and store them in the crisper. You should check on it every couple of days to make sure the towel hasn't dried out.
Recipes highlighting fresh herbs:
Rosemary-Potato Focaccia Rolls
Crispy Roasted Potatoes with Thyme and Garlic
Pumpkin Tortellini with Sage
Buttered Noodles with Toasted Sage
WATCH: How To Chop Fresh Herbs