Select vibrant, aromatic deep green leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing. Buy fresh herbs only when you need them, and only in small bunches or packages. For no matter how well you store them, they quickly lose flavor and appearance in a matter of days.
Store fresh herbs for no longer than 5 to 7 days. Loosely wrap unwashed bunches in damp paper towels and store them in plastic containers with lids, or in produce style bags. Place the wrapped herbs in the bottom of the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator.
Basil, parsley and dill with the longer stems do well in a tall glass or vase with a few inches of water added. Stand the stems up in the water and loosely cover the herbs with a clear plastic bag. Discard any leaves that are discolored or wilted.
It may cost a few cents more to buy herbs in plastic boxes or cellophane bags, but they will keep a little longer than the loose bunches sold next to the fresh produce.
Preserve chopped, fresh herbs by freezing them in a little water in ice cube trays. If you bought more herbs than you can use, simply chop them in small pieces and place them on paper towels to dry. Just lay the towels on a flat surface, kitchen counter, and the herbs should dry in about ten days. Store the dried herbs in small plastic containers with lids.
While you may prefer the taste of fresh herbs, don’t overlook dried or frozen ones. For example: In Greek cooking, dried oregano is used in preference to fresh.
Buy dried herbs in the smallest quantities available. Most dried herbs and spices may deteriorate in quality long before the expiration date on the jar or can. The best way to check for freshness is by smell, taste and appearance- a good example would be faded color and hardly any herb fragrance after opening the container. It’s best to toss them out and buy fresh jars.
Must haves for cooking: basil, bay, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lovage, marjoram, oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and Vietnamese mint and cinnamon.
~ Meadow Walker
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