If your herb garden has rewarded you with a bounteous crop of fresh herbs, you can always dry or freeze the herbs for later use. Although this is a workable solution for getting the most out of a generous harvest, there’s no doubt that most herbs taste best when they’re fresh.
If you’re not interested in freezing or drying your herbs, here are a few suggestions for keeping them fresh for several days.
Like a bouquet
Parsley, basil, mint, tarragon, chervil, cilantro and other herbs with relatively long stems are easily stored in a jar or glass with about an inch of fresh water.
Trim the ends first and be sure to remove any discolored or wilted leaves, then cover the “arrangement” with a plastic bag held in place with a rubber band. Place the herbs on the kitchen counter where they should keep about a week.
Seal the jar
Similarly, put an inch of water in a one-quart glass jar. Place the herbs with stem-ends in the water as described above, then fold over the tops of the herbs and put the lid securely on the jar. Many herbs keep for a surprising length of time when stored in this manner.
Pop them in the fridge
Some fresh herbs will last more than a week in the refrigerator. Roll the herbs loosely in a dry paper towel and place them in a zip-lock storage bag. This is a good option for storing chives, sage, savory, rosemary and thyme.
Flavor-rich herb butter
If you have a lot of herbs, you can always make herb butter. Just mix your choice of herbs into softened, unsalted butter.
If you like garlic, add a couple of finely chopped cloves. Spoon the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper, then roll it in a log shape and let it firm up in the refrigerator for about three hours before serving. If sealed tightly, herb butter lasts for a couple of months.
Tips on Keeping Herbs Fresh After Harvest
- Harvest only the healthiest plants. Don’t expect wilted plants to remain fresh.
- Cool plants in the shade immediately after picking. Never leave them in sunlight.
- Although you can gently shake the herbs to remove excess soil, don’t wash the herbs until just before you ready to use them. However, if you’re set on washing the herbs, be sure to blot excess moisture. (A salad spinner is perfect for the job.)
- Don’t store fresh herbs in a sunny windowsill or near your stovetop. Direct sunlight and heat will wilt herbs in a couple of days.
- Don’t put the herbs in the refrigerator without protection; they’re likely to turn black very quickly.