Keep fresh herbs fresh

Fresh herbs stored in water in the fridge
Fresh herbs stored in water can last for weeks in the fridge.Click the image to see the glass container.

Hands up if you have bought fresh herbs, used them once or twice, and had them turn brown, or even to mush before you get used to having this treat available. I thought so. It doesn’t have to be so.

Fresh herbs that have stalks, which is most if you are buying commercially, can be kept fresh for far longer if you store them upright in water in your fridge.

Rinse the bunch of herbs so they are ready to use. Remove twist-ties or other fasteners to let the bunch fan out and get more air. If the herb stalks are too long to sit firmly in the container you are using, trim them to fit.

I have small, drinking glasses that are the perfect size for most herbs. Coffee mugs work as well, but for my inattentive style, I like the clear container so I can see that the water is in good shape.

You do need to keep the water fresh, though changing it every couple of days is enough.Rinse the whole bunch

I have always covered the herbs, so I can’t say for certain it is necessary, but I do it for two reasons. Refrigerator air is very dry, and it just doesn’t make sense to be putting water in at the bottom, and sucking it out at the top. Secondly, as much as I like cilantro, I don’t want my fridge to take on the scent of my herbs.

The handiest way to cover is to use a large, plastic, storage bag. Slip it loosely over the herbs and the glass. You can see in the image above, I have folded the bottom of the bag to bring the top of the bag closer to the cilantro.

Storing fresh herbs in the fridge with a cotton cover
This cotton cover is absolutely the best protection for fresh herbs stored in water.

At one time, I fastened the bag with an elastic, but that was such a pain when I went to use the herb, that I simply stopped. If anything, the herbs last longer with more air available through the bottom.

Finally, the best cover I have ever used for herbs, is a cotton knit, sock-like bag that I picked up somewhere in my cooking past. One day, I have promised myself, I will sit down with a length of pure cotton knit and make myself a bunch of these covers. If I had the time and inclination to test natural fiber food protection against plastic, I’m pretty sure the breathable, natural container would prove to keep vegetables fresh longer.

Give this method a try. I never used a full package of commercial herbs (unless I bought and used a full package at one time) before I started treating them like cut flowers.

Real food fresh herb storage photo
Cilantro is still going strong after 10 days in the refrigerator. I've used quite a bit of it, and changed the water several times, but it is still in great shape.

Update: It’s been ten days since I set the cilantro up for this article. This bunch is still going strong. There is less of it, but it is still fresh, crisp and delicious.

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