The Secret To Storing Hardy Herbs So They Last Even Longer

As many cooks know, herbs are one of the best ways to incorporate flavor into a dish. Fresh or dried herbs have their own uses and their own pros and cons. It's best to pick from a living, potted herb plant for those wanting to capture an herb's immediate essence. But for those not blessed with the time or green thumbs to grow our own herbs, we have to purchase them from the grocery store.

Soft and hard herbs decline at different rates, with soft herbs like basil and cilantro wilting within a few days, even in the fridge. Hardy herbs like sage and rosemary can last up to a week but not much longer. While storing herbs with their stems in water does help to extend their life by a few days, there are several ways to make hardy herbs last even longer. This is especially useful since herbs are often sold in bunches, and we can only use so much for one dish at a time.

Storing herbs for the long haul

To make hardy herbs last longer, arrange the stalks on a damp paper towel, then roll them up loosely. Place this roll in an airtight container or zip-lock bag and store it in the fridge. This will help extend the life of your fresh hardy herbs for up to three weeks more, though remember to keep the paper towel damp by sprinkling water on them every few days.

What if you have a glut of herbs and need to store them even longer? The first way is to freeze them. To freeze hardy herbs, wash and dry the whole stalks of the herb. Pick the leaves off the stems, then gently stuff the herb leaves in empty ice cube trays. Then, you can pour water or neutral cooking oil over the herbs to cover them. Let the herbs freeze in liquid in the freezer. Pop these herb cubes out when they're frozen solid, transfer them to a zip-lock back or freezer-safe container, and store them in the freezer for up to a few months.

Drying and using up herbs

You can also opt to dry leftover herbs. Specialized dehydrators aren't necessary here, as long as you have a microwave. Simply arrange the leaves on a microwave-safe plate lined with a paper towel. Microwave on high for 20 seconds at a time, checking in between that it's as dry as you need it to be. You can then use airtight containers to store the dried leaves whole, crumbled, or ground, depending on what you foresee using them for.

Now that you've extended the shelf life of your herbs, you can breathe a little easier. That said, these herbs won't keep indefinitely, so you'll still need to use them sooner rather than later!

The usual ways to use herbs include incorporating them into pasta dishes or amping up protein mains like a quick-griddled chicken with herbs or the classic pairing of rosemary with lamb. Some other not-as-obvious ways are to mix them into doughs and batters, like herby pasta dough. You can even add them to loose-leaf teas to create a unique flavor profile for your afternoon pick-me-up.