How to Store Fresh Herbs

It is time once again to get my herb garden in the ground. Unfortunately, it is the only thing I have had success growing in recent years since moving here. However, I am thankful that I have at least been able to grow a variety of herbs that I love.

While I have the herb bed just outside my door, it is not always convenient to go out and cut what I need as I need them. Besides, I don’t raise all the varieties of fresh herbs I use. So, I like to store the extra herbs I have raised or purchased. My storage consists of three basic techniques: wet, dry, and frozen.

I do raise parsley, but not usually cilantro. However, I store both fresh herbs the same way. I cut the ends off if I bought them at the store or they have been cut for awhile. I place them in a smaller glass with enough water to cover a few inches of the stems. Then, I cover them with a plastic bag that I leave open at the bottom and place them in the refrigerator.

Herbs in water covered

They will stay fresh in the refrigerator longer. The above photo is of parsley the day I cut it from the garden as I put it in the refrigerator. The bottom photo is of the same parsley more than two weeks later.

parsley after refrigeration for weeks

I find that parsley lasts much longer than cilantro when stored using this method.

For basil, use the same method up to the point of refrigeration. DO NOT REFRIGERATE BASIL. You just leave it sitting out covered with the plastic bag on the counter.

I usually dry extra sage and actually harvest sage throughout the growing season just to dry it to use in stuffing, etc.

During the growing season, I clip off the leaves and trim the stems off the individual leaves by hand. I place it in a single layer on a couple layers of paper towels lining a baking sheet and let it dry completely before putting it in a glass jar or plastic bag. This method also works well with mint leaves.

fresh sage

At the end of the season, I just remove larger stems of the sage and hang upside down with a piece of twine in a dark, dry place. It works best if the herbs are hanging freely and not against a wall, etc. This method also works with culinary lavender, rosemary and thyme.

No matter the method of drying herbs, I do not to wash the herbs I grow before drying them. If I’ve purchased the herbs at a market, I was them and make sure they have thoroughly dried before attempting to store them.

While passive drying works fine for rosemary and thyme, my favorite method of storing these herbs is in the freezer. I just carefully wrap the stems in dry paper towels and place in a freezer bag. I stick the bag in the freezer for a day or two, then unwrap the towel. If the individual leaves have not already fallen off the stems, it usually only takes a shake or two to clear the stems of most of the leaves. I then store the leaves in the freezer bags or other freezer containers.

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