Fresh herbs are one of the MAIN ways to give that final jump in flavor to a meal and please believe me when I say, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. No really really. I used to be like parsley-sarsley. Mint-schpint.
While they make a difference.....there's a problem.
You typically only use a little bit at a time in a meal - on the P3tolife meal plans, you might use 4-5 partial bunches of different fresh herbs in 1 week, and at $3 a bunch, stored incorrectly, this ends up being a really quick way to waste all your fat-free-sugar free starbucks money for the month.
How Long Properly Stored Fresh Herbs Will Last
What I learned is that a number of herbs will last more than 2 weeks, and still be in a pretty fresh looking usable state, and a few herbs will be fresh for about 7-10 days before they will look too sad to use. I was super surprised honestly how long they can last when stored right, because before this, I was the throw-the bag-of-cilantro-whatever-in-the-crisper-bin-and-forget-it's-even-there person. Except I have learned that fresh herbs really do make such a difference to the taste of food. So there had to be a way to make this happen without costing $30 a month.
There are 2 main successful methods for this, detailed for you below.
Just look at that Rosemary and Thyme folks! This is Day 19 - Day 19!!!
Determine what is the best way to store fresh herbs so that they stay freshest and usable the longest. Try various methods and compare them.
Day 1: I purchased all the herbs on 12/13, in the late afternoon, and had everything set up for my experiment by that night.
Day 19: 1/1, over 2.5 weeks later. Meant to review the herbs sooner than this but....I'm just that kind of not-on-top-of-my-fresh-herbs person. And I think you likely are too, so you will find this experiment encouraging!
Best 2 Methods for Storing Fresh Herbs for Longevity:
Note: Both methods worked equally well.
1. JAR METHOD:
In refrigerator, stored in jars with water, covered with plastic bag on top.
2. ZIPLOCK METHOD:
Best when it comes to use of space. In refrigerator, store in ziplock bag with wet paper towel wrapped around the ends.
Do the Following for BOTH Methods:
- Snip off the ends of your herbs so they have a "fresh" end
- Do NOT wash your herbs at time of storage. Wash only at time of use.
- Don't bother periodically changing the water if in the fridge, if on the kitchen counter, change water every few days.
1. Put in a glass jar with water and cover the tops with the bag the herbs came in from the store in the fridge OR
2. Get a thick paper towel very wet and wrap/tuck the bottom half of the fresh herbs into them, then stick the entire thing into a large ziplock bag and seal and keep in the fridge. You can store 3-4 bunches of herbs in 1 gallon ziplock bag this way, depending on the size of the bunch.
Side But Important Notes:
This was best for all herbs I tested except except Basil. Best Basil method below.
- What Doesn't Seem to Matter: Changing the water. I saw this suggested, and I was going to do it, and then I just totally forgot/didn't. Which is good because I think that's likely what the rest of you all would probably do too - if you have anything better to do than to change the water of your fresh herbs, which I'm sure you have. 😉 Because they stayed super fresh in the fridge just fine this way. ALTHOUGH - for the jar kept on the counter (not in fridge) - this water would have been good to change- it did start looking rather murky after a few days. yuck.
- Humidity effects how your herbs act: The best methods for storing your herbs are to some degree impacted by the humidity of the area you live in. So I live in a very dry area, with about 30% humidity most the time. Thus, if I leave herbs out on my counter in water but not covered, they go limp very quickly (mine were unusable that way within several hours). If you live in a very humid area, like Florida (another story but when I visited there for the first time, as I walked through the airport I had the feeling that every surface around me felt damp, even the fabric chairs in the care rental waiting area- that was a new feeling for me!) it's very possible that not covering your herbs with a bag while left out on the counter may last quite awhile.
- Refrigerator is still best it seems: regardless of humidity, our refrigerators seem to be about the same nationwide, so in general the method described for fridge storing seems to give the best storage and freshness overall still. Except basil.
- For Basil: Store in a jar of water and loosely covered with a bag (if you live in a dry area) or uncovered (if you live in humid area) NOT in the fridge. Leave it sitting out on your kitchen counter. Good idea to change the water every few days in this case.
- The Case of the Basil Revival: One odd thing that happened that is actually useful to share, is that in my experiment to leave out basil on my counter in water but uncovered, while in my dry climate it wilted severely in several hours, my son had the scientific idea to put a plastic covering over the totally wilted Basil to see if it would come back to life. I didn't have much hope for this as it looked pretty darn bad, but in the interests of encouraging his ideas, I said yeah go ahead let's see what happens! Lo and behold - the Basil not only revived almost entirely (except for the few leaves that had actually died already), once I took the plastic covering back off later that day in the interests of continuing my own experiment, the basil stayed hydrated/non-wilty the rest of the experiment without a covering! Pretty weird, but cool.
- Basil Death: This is what happens when you just leave your basil in the bag it came in from the grocery store in the fridge (on the left). On the right, while it's still not looking too happy, keep in mind it's been 19 days at this point. The basil keeps very well on the counter in water for a good 7-10 days before it starts suffering.
Herbs that kept very well for the full 19 days:
with the 2 methods described above in my experiment
- Mint - Spearmint/Peppermint
Herbs that last more like 7-10 days
with above 2 methods:
- Green Onions
- Basil (using alternate storing method suggested for basil)
Additional Tips I Found Online - Said to Work
The additional ideas I have not tried myself yet but were said to be additional ways to prevent waste:
Freezer: cut all stems off parsley or cilantro, leaving on the leaves, wash and dry with towel. Put into a freezer ziplock bag, press all the air out of the bag and seal and stick in the freezer. The person who suggested this said their parsley stayed fresh for 4 weeks doing this and hadn't tested it longer than that. It was stated they defrost in just a few minutes.
A Few Comparisons - Taken Day 19:
Parsley on left was kept in wet papertowel in ziplock bag in fridge. Parsley on right was just left dry in the bag it came in from grocery in the fridge.
Rosemary - on the left, not only unedible and practically dead, totally moldy when left in the container it came in. Rosemary cut from that very same bunch on day but ends kept in a wet papertowel in a ziplock bag in fridge.
Here is thyme & rosemary....or thyme & rosemary and what WAS once thyme and rosemary....
For woodier herbs like these, they do not seem to do well out on the counter covered with a bag....as is indicated by the bowl on the left. That wasn't in the fridge. It SUPER molded rather quickly. Yet you see on the let, herbs taken from the very same bunches on day, kept in the fridge in their little wet papertowel diapers look like I just picked them from the garden.
Last comparison, the only thing different about this plastic container of herbs on the left and the rest in this photo, is that the herbs weren't covered with a plastic bag on top. They had water in the bottom and were kept in the fridge just like the others but wilted fairly quickly.
The Process in Pictures:
1. Snip the Ends off Your Herbs - DO NOT WASH
Wash later at time of use.
Then: A or B
A. Ziplock Method (Recommended for space saving)
Get a papertowel wet
Wrap up your fresh herbs in it. Basically a diaper for your herbs.
Stick them in a gallon ziplock bag, seal, and put in the fridge. You should have room for 3-4 bunches of herbs in 1 bag.
B. Jar Method
After snipping off ends and not washing,
Add herbs to a jar of water.
Then cover with a plastic bag (I just used the one it came in from grocery store originally), and store in the fridge.
In closing, fresh herbs REALLY make a difference in the taste and flavor of your food - both on Phase 2 and in regular life. It's worth learning to incorporate them in a doable way.
Let me finish with a picture of my sweet boy at 8 years old now (he makes an appearance at the end of the Video tutorial in case you're as obsessed with him as I am) 😉 and our cat that acts like a dog, named Elmer.