Why You Should Never Throw Away Old Herbs

There's nothing like having fresh herbs on hand to garnish your favorite meal. Whether you're throwing some sprigs of thyme into a simmering pot of chicken soup or dressing your plate of spaghetti with basil leaves, herbs can make your meal a culinary masterpiece.

However, fresh herbs have a tendency to go bad quickly. You might have seen hacks involving putting store-bought herbs into Mason jars with water and placing them in the fridge. But even though you may get a few more days of life out of them this way, they're still bound to go bad.

So, how can you save your fresh herbs from spoiling and repurpose them for a later time? The answer involves a clever trick our ancestors have been doing for centuries. By repurposing herbs this way, you can save them to later steep a cup of tea, make marinades and sauces, or even sprinkle them into a warm bath.

Stop throwing out old herbs and do this instead

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, drying your herbs is the easiest preservation method to keep them from spoiling. But how does one go about home-drying herbs? 

The beauty of drying your herbs is that there isn't just one method. Traditional methods include air-drying herbs by hanging them in a well-ventilated area. You can also use a kitchen dehydrator to evaporate the moisture from herbs instantly. Other ways involve drying them in the microwave or oven. MasterClass says that to air-dry herbs the old-school way, you'll want to start by tying the stems of herbs such as tarragon, lavender, rosemary, thyme, or lemon balm into bunches with twine, rubber bands, or twist ties. Then, hang the sprigs upside down in a warm, dry place, advises HelloFresh

Fresh herbs can take up to a week to completely dry out. You'll know they're done once the leaves crackle when touched. To further protect your herbs during drying, you can wrap your herbs in mesh to keep away dust and pests. You'll also want to keep them out of direct sunlight to promote better flavor and color.

Which is better: fresh or dried herbs?

Using either fresh or dried herbs will make your meal tastier. But is one better than the other? Ree Drummond says there's a time and place for both kinds of herbs. Dried herbs last much longer than fresh herbs, and a little goes a long way. However, fresh herbs are generally better for making certain dishes, such as pesto, guacamole, and chimichurri.

Drummond explains that substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs isn't a one-for-one swap. Her rule of thumb is to use three times the amount of chopped fresh herbs for dried ones, and vice versa. Dried herbs are more potent than fresh herbs due to fresh herbs having a higher water content, making their flavor less intense, explains the University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Regardless of whether you choose fresh or dried herbs at the grocery store, know that you can dry your fresh herbs if you don't get around to using them. Letting fresh herbs dry out allows you to store them for longer and use them in many creative ways.