Ever since I learned how to successfully store a big bunch of fresh basil in my kitchen for three straight weeks, I have had no worries buying fresh herbs anymore, not because I become a herb expert all of sudden, but because I know there has to be ways to keep these special plants longer. I just need to find the best and practical way, try it out, and then share the results with you so that hopefully you can just guilt-freely grab your favorite fresh herbs in the grocery store.
Trust me, I know exactly how you feel when you can’t use up fresh herbs quickly enough and have to dump them into you trash can… So Let’s try to prevent it from happening again.
Here is a collection of tips about how to handle fresh herbs in your kitchen in order to get the most out of them in different ways. The resource comes from a few old cookbooks and the internet – the greatest place to learn. I have tried some of the tips with absolute satisfaction. The rest is what I personally think would be useful. Therefore, I just summed up everything below for your reference (and mine too)! 🙂 Feel free to add more.
Let’s start with mint.
HOW TO PRESERVE FRESH MINT
This bunch of fresh mint has been staying in this fantastic status for 10 days as of September 17, 2013 when I took this photo. (Got it on September 8 according to my grocery shopping record.) I am confident that it’s going to last for at least another week before I finish it.
Method #1 Treat Mint Like Flowers
- Remove the rubber band that holds the mint together after you bring a fresh bunch home.
- Trim the end of the stems by cutting off the leaves to allow some space at the cut ends. (Use these leaves for cooking or if you can’t use up all of them, there’s another way to keep them. Please refer to method #2.)
- In a relatively tall container such as a jar or a mug, carefully stick the mint stems in and add enough water to cover the cut ends.
- Cover loosely with a plastic bag and keep the contraption in your fridge.
Change water every two or three days. Just like basil, mint will probably root if you keep it long enough. This method can also be applied to store fresh scallion, parsley, and basil except that you don’t need to put basil into the fridge. Fresh herbs can last for a few weeks this way.
Method #2 Wrap Mint Leaves With A Damp Paper Towel
- Lay mint leaves on a damp paper towel. If you find the paper towel is too wet, just gently wring out the water.
- Wrap up the leaves with the paper towel and place it into plastic bag. Make sure the plastic bag is big enough not to crush the leaves. Seal it.
- Place the plastic bag in your fridge.
Mint can be stored for at least two weeks this way. It also works for most other herbs, I particularly use this method to store cilantro.
OTHER WAYS TO STORE FRESH HERBS
Method #1 Purée Fresh Herb Leaves
Gather fresh herb leaves, wash and dry them, and then purée the leaves in a food processor or blender with fresh garlic and a little extra-virgin olive oil. Fill small jars with the mixture and put the jars in your freezer. (Baby-food jars are recommended here, but I am obviously not going to get any for now.)
When fresh herbs are out of season, these small portions are supposed to be perfect for flavoring sauces, soups, casseroles, and marinades; for topping meat, poultry, and fish dishes before baking; for many more uses as you can come up with. It’s a great way to add a variety of fresh goodness to your cooking in all seasons.
Method #2 Freeze Herbs Into Ice Cube Trays
Delicate herbs like basil, dill, chives, chervils, and parsley don’t taste very good when dried. Instead, freezing them works very well. Just chop the herbs, portion them generously into ice cube trays, and add a little chicken broth. Mint can be stored this way too but instead of using chicken broth, use water. This allows you to add the mint cubes to your iced tea and other cold drinks. (This is pure genius!)
Method #3 Use Up Fresh Herbs By Making Compound Butter
Combine fresh herbs with cold unsalted butter in your food processor and chop them. Shape the butter into small logs and wrap them in several layer of plastic wrap before refrigerating them or freezing them. Compound butters should be great for flavoring pasta, grilled fish or chicken, sauces, etc…
PS: A Tip For Dried Herbs
In order to get the most out of dried herbs, rub them between the palms of your hands before using them. This crushing action helps release their flavor more.
That’s all for now. I am sure there are many more ways to treat fresh herbs in order to prevent waste and probably many more other ways will be discovered or created as we continue our cooking journey. If you ever come across one, please share.