Keeping Your Store-bought Herbs Fresh
Lets talk about herbs! (No, not that kind of herb! We will talk about the health and psychological benefits of marijuana a different time!) The herbs I am referring to today are the kinds you would use in your kitchen on a daily basis. Or not. Because fresh herbs from the grocery store tend to go bad after being left in the produce drawer for only a day or two. Well luckily over the past few years I have come up with solutions to these problems. I have picked up tips and tricks to help preserve our precious herbs that infuse our food with such amazing flavor. These tips will save you a ton of heartbreak from produce gone bad, not to mention, the money in your wallet!
You may already know that most fresh herbs can be substituted for their dry form in a majority of recipes. In most cases, the ratio is 3:1. Three parts fresh to one part dry because dry herbs surprisingly are more potent than fresh. However, with that being said, I find that most meals simply taste better (and look more appetizing) when you use fresh herbs. In my experience, I have had the worst luck keeping basil, cilantro, and parsley fresh. Below we will talk about each and how best to keep them for the longest amount of time we can.
Parsley is an amazing herb with so many health benefits. It has anti-anti-inflamitory properties and high levels of myristicin that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It is high in folic acid and aids in the body's natural process of detoxification. You may have seen two different types of parsley: curly and flat. What is the difference you ask? When it comes to taste, virtually nothing. I use flat-leaf parsley because frankly it is easier to chop. Both types of parsley can be stored the same. I simply remove the rubber band from the bundle and trim the ends of the parsley with kitchen shears 1/4 inch. Place the entire bundle of parsley in a glass jar (mason jars are perfect for this) and fill with filtered water until the water line reaches half way up the length of the stems. Place the jar of parsley in a sunny area like a window seal. I love how they brighten up my kitchen space and make it feel more, well, alive! I gently trim off the quantity needed for recipes and continue to fill the water on an as-needed basis. Once I am left with only stems I usually make a cleansing broth with any other remaining vegetables that are starting to go off. I have been able to keep parsley successfully like this for over 2 weeks!
Basil is a popular herb and is commonly used in Italian cuisine. It has many of the same benefits as parsley and also contains analgesic, a pain reducer! Some people have success using the essential oil form of basil for anti-anxiety and stress benefits. It can be kept fresh similarly to the way parsley is. In fact, I usually have both right next to each other on my window seal. There are a couple differences to note. You will want to make sure you start with an entire bunch not just the leaves which are commonly sold in plastic containers. In most cases you will not have to trim the stems of your basil. Basil leaves soak up much more water than other herbs so often trimming the stems results in an over-abundance of water which can lead to saggy, flimsy leaves. You will want to add just enough water to cover about an inch of the stems. If any water is touching the leaves themselves they will go bad within a couple days and begin to rot.
Cilantro. Cilantro has been my arch nemesis for a long time now. First off, I never liked it and it took years for me to grow an appreciation for it. Besides that my cilantro would go bad in literally one day and it used to drive me insane. In fact, my cilantro dilemma is why I started looking into ways to keep my herbs fresh in the first place! Okay, so I thought I had this preserving and storing herbs thing down to a science. I would line up all of my beautiful herbs in their beautiful glass jars next to each other. They all looked great for a few days but I would notice the water in my cilantro jar going cloudy and murky to brownish green so quickly. Not very long after that it would wilt and become the saddest bundle of herbs next to my other brilliant green bunches. Something was definitely wrong here. After some quick research it became clear that cilantro likes a cooler environment. I tried again and put the jar in the fridge which worked better but still didn't keep it fresh for longer than a week max. Turns out cilantro also loves humidity! To create a thriving atmosphere for your cilantro remove the rubber band and trim the stems 1/4 inch. Place the cilantro in your glass jar and fill with water half way up the stems making sure to keep all the leaves above the water. Lightly cover the cilantro with a plastic bag and place in the fridge. You can use the produce bag from the grocery store you originally put it. I prefer to use a gallon size ziplock bag. I cut the seal/zip part off and I am left with a loose clear bag. That way I can look directly through the plastic to keep an eye on its freshness. So you won't believe it but I went from not being able to keep cilantro fresh for even a couple days to being able to keep it fresh for over 2 weeks!
Now I know what you are thinking, "I don't have time to get all of those herbs prepared in their fancy little glass jars!" I am going to shoot it to you straight. It doesn't take that long, you are just being lazy. Once you get back from grocery shopping put your frozen stuff away, your cold veggies, your fruits and pantry items, and leave your herbs on the cutting board. Hell leave them there for an hour or so! When you are ready take the 5 minutes to create days and days of lasting freshness. You will thank yourself later!