Keeping Fresh Herbs…well…Fresh!

Unnecessary disclaimer, this is not a recipe.  However, it is hopefully something really useful that will make cooking a little easier both in planning on your grocery bill.  You see, I hate wasting money.  I clip coupons, I bring my own grocery bags and make the cashier give me the five cent discount, and a hundred other embarrassing things.    So you can imagine how much it killed me to buy herbs and have them go bad before I could use them up.  Plus, it also left me in the lurch when I opened up the fridge to start a recipe and realized that a main ingredient was rancid and brown.   Most of the Jewish recipes that I’ve been tackling incorporate herbs in some way, or can be improved by adding them so this was happening more and more frequently.

So, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to protect and prolong the life of some of the herbs I use most often.  Sure, one of the easiest ways would be to grow it yourself and just pluck off what you need at the moment.  This isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds actually.  I’ve had good luck with basil, parsley, mint and oregano in buckets on the back-steps and green onions in my garden plot.  However, if that isn’t possible…or of interest…there is still something you can do!  Hopefully this will save you a little frustration and give you room in your grocery budget to splurge on something else delicious!

Parsley: Fresh parsley can be put in a cup of water in the fridge, almost like flowers in a vase.  Take a sandwich bag and pop it over the top of the leaves.  I’ve had it keep like this for weeks!

Basil: Like parsley, basil can be kept in a jar of water with a plastic bag over it.  You’ll need to experiment whether it keeps better in the fridge or on a counter top out of direct sun.  As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I’ve also had good luck putting it in a sandwich bag with a cushion of air and then sticking it in the crisper drawer.

Green Onions:  Like parsley, green onions can be kept in a jar of water on the counter.  You’ll want to change the water every so often or the roots get sort of slimy.  After you use the onion, don’t throw away the root bulb!  If you put it back into a cup of water, or plant it right into soil, it will re-grow!

Cilantro: What seems to work the best for me is to lay the unwashed stems on a paper towel.  Fold the towel over the stems and slip the entire thing into a sandwich bag.  Sprinkle the paper towel very sparingly with water and then zip it shut, leaving a cushion of air in the bag.  I’ve had it keep like this for a month!

Freezing Herbs: Frozen herbs will never look as good as fresh ones, so it isn’t your best choice for garnishes or places where it needs to look pretty.  However, they keep a lot of flavor and will last a LONG time so it is good bang for your buck.

My method for freezing herbs is to wash everything and dry it really well.  Then I chop it up how I would usually use it for a recipe.  After that, I lay it all out in a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (this lets you spread it out so that it doesn’t clump).  Once it has had a chance to set for a few hours you can pour the herbs into sandwich bags and save them for later!

Happy cooking!


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