How to Keep the Fresh in Herbs
As if we need another reason to love springtime, fresh herbs are finally back in season! Fragrant, newly snipped herbs are a surefire way to liven any meal. But unless you’re growing your own, they can be pricey, and recipes often only call for small amounts.
So how can you keep those vibrant flavors from losing their zest? We’ve got tips on how to preserve, dry and freeze herbs for year-round seasoning, and a few fun and easy ideas for how to use them to liven up those warm spring evenings.
STAY FRESH: HYDRATION HELPS
To get the most out of your fresh herbs, keep them happy by keeping them moist, and plan to use them within 7 to 8 days.
WADING: Like flowers, most soft herbs, such as parsley, cilantro and tarragon, can be gathered in a bouquet and stored in a small container of cold water. The SNAPWARE® .5-CUP AIRTIGHT NESTING BOWL is an ideal size for keeping a smaller handful of herbs fresh in the fridge. Simply fill the bowl with a small amount of water and place herbs stem side down. Loosely cover with a plastic bag and store in the fridge (except for basil and mint, which do better at room temperature on a countertop). Remember to trim the stems and change the water every 1 to 2 days for optimum freshness.
WRAPPING: Another method is to gently enfold fresh herbs in a damp paper towel and place them in the crisper drawer or in a SNAPWARE® TOTAL SOLUTION™ FOOD STORAGE container. Woody-stemmed or hard herbs, such as rosemary, oregano and thyme, tend to do well with this option, but make sure the paper towel is not too wet, as hard herbs are more susceptible to mold.
LET DRY: HOW TO DIY
To preserve herbs for even longer, consider drying them with either of these easy methods. Store small portions in 1- to 2-cup sizes of SNAPWARE® TOTAL SOLUTION™ FOOD STORAGE for up to 1 year. Tip: Drying works particularly well for hard herbs like oregano and thyme.
AIR: Make sure the herbs are free of moisture. Secure stems with a rubber band and hang them upside down in a warm, dry, dark place. Leave them for about 2 to 4 weeks until the leaves appear crumbly.
HEAT: Spread herbs on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in a 150°F oven (keep the door slightly open) for about 2 to 4 hours until dry.
SAY FREEZE: EMBRACE THE COLD SNAP
For soft herbs, freezing is an excellent way to stash an abundance of garden extras. Simply chop them up and sprinkle into a standard ice cube tray, filling each space about half full. Then top with water and freeze. Once frozen, place the cubes in a large size SNAPWARE® TOTAL SOLUTION™ FOOD STORAGE container (available up to almost 16-cup size!), and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Note: Each cube will have about 1 tablespoon of herb, and they’re super handy for dropping into sauces or soups.
SMILE: HAPPY HOUR HERBS & HORS D’OEUVRES
Celebrate the season and have some fun with your fresh herbs while entertaining guests:
TO SWEETEN: Make an infused simple syrup for cocktails, lemonade or iced tea. Heat a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat; stir in fresh herbs and let steep for about 15 minutes. Then strain, cool completely and use to sweeten your favorite beverage, or store in a Snapware airtight container in the refrigerator. It should keep for about 1 month.
TO SIP: Flavor water with fresh herbs and berries by filling a pitcher first with fruit and herbs (berries and mint or basil make a lovely combination). Then top with water and allow to sit for about an hour before serving.
TO SPREAD: Whip up a flavorful basil pesto for an aromatic appetizer served on crostini or flatbread. In a food processor, blend together 2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, 3 garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Store in a Snapware airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
- Don’t wash fresh herbs until you are ready to use them.
- When substituting fresh for dried, use a 3:1 ratio. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, you can substitute with 1 teaspoon of dried.
- Add a tablespoon of vodka to herb-infused simple syrup to keep it fresh longer in the refrigerator.
Spring may get the honor of ushering in the new crops of herbs, but with these tips, you can preserve and enjoy those flavors for months to come!
YOUR TURN: Which fresh herbs are you most excited to dig into again?