Fresh herbs: the relationship I didn't know I was in...

About three times per year, I kick myself for not keeping dried herbs in the house, usually when I decided to make a sauce at the last minute.   However, the other 362 days of the year I have a different problem: storing and using up my fresh herbs so I can feel good about my abilities as a cook.  Honestly, my entire self worth hinges on whether I have upheld my committment to use that cilantro or basil that is just staring me in the face everytime I walk in the kitchen. Okay not really, but sometimes it feels that way.  

If you are like me you grow or buy fresh herbs weekly.  Sometimes I succeed in using them quickly in many recipes and other times I find myself throwing away all my culinary hopes and dreams into the compost container.  Many years ago, as I was packing my kitchen in order to move to San Francisco, I decided that fresh was better.  I threw out all my dried herbs and spices and vowed I would start again, only this time, absolutely no dried herbs and only select dried spices. As such, over the years, I have read many techniques on how to best store fresh herbs that I thought I would share what I have learned: 

Fresh herbs are like good friends, great to have around but a committment to maintain.  

* Store fresh herbs in the refrigerator in a resealable plastic bag between layers of barely damp paper towels. Sometimes I use one paper towel other times two (usually depending on whether I even have paper towels in the house at the time).

*  Alternatively, place fresh herbs in a glass or bowl and leave them in a cool spot on your counter away from direct sunlight.  Be sure to change the water daily and don't let any leaves soak in the water, trim accordingly.

* Feel free to cover your countertop herbs with a plastic bag, I find that in some climates this helps preserve their freshness. 

* More robust herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme do better on the counter than the refrigerator.

* Delicate herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, and tarragon do better in a bag in the refrigerator.

* Having fresh herbs on the counter or in a refrigerator at eye level helps remind me that I need to use them up or the relationship will inevitably end up in the trash.   

Like life, some weeks are better than others.  On the good weeks, my palate and my body thank me. On the not so good weeks, I just renew my committment to keep trying.  Fortunately, the garden abounds with second chances.

Happy chopping!


Jennifer Roether