Storing, Drying & Using Herbs
Storing, Drying & Using Herbs
Fresh herbs. They’re amazing and add a unique and wonderful flavor to food, no matter how they’re used. But keeping fresh herbs fresh can be tricky. Here are a few tips for working with some of your favorite fresh herbs.
Pick through herbs, discarding any damaged leaves. Wash delicate herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley by holding the stems and plunging the tops into cold water. Shake to dry then set the stem ends in a glass jar with an inch or two of water.
Basil: Store uncovered at room temp.
Cilantro & Parsley: First, make sure the herbs are well dried. Then most people will tell you to cover loosely with plastic and store in the fridge which will prolong their freshness for an extra week or so. This is great! However, we’ve had tremendous luck by trimming the stem ends so the entire herb bundle will fit into a wide mouth quart mason jar; add an inch of cool water to the jar and screw on the lid, tucking all the leaves inside. With this method, herbs stayed fresh for SEVERAL WEEKS.
Keep an eye on the herbs, replacing water as needed and discarding wilted stems. This helps keep the rest of the bundle fresh.
As with tender herbs, you’ll want to first get rid of any stems or leaves that look bad. Woody-type herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano simply need to be swirled around in cold water then spread out on paper towels (or a dish towel) to dry thoroughly. Once dry, wrap the herbs in a damp (not wet) paper towel to keep them hydrated. Place the wrapped herbs in an open plastic bag in the fridge (the crisper drawer is best).
Check them every few days and discard any wilted herbs and replace damp towels as needed.
Try lavender, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, tarragon, and small-leaved herbs like thyme if you’re new to herb drying.
High humidity can cause mold to form when you’re air-drying herbs, so if it’s humid where you live, you might want to experiment with a small group of herbs first.
Discard damaged leaves then strip big-leaved herbs like mint from the stems. Small feathery herbs should be left on their stems until after they’ve dried.
Gather sprigs into small bunches and tie the stems together near the bottom. Wrap bunches loosely with muslin or thin paper bags to keep out dust and catch falling leaves and seeds. Hang the bunches, leaves facing down, in a well-ventailated area out of direct sunlight.
Your herbs should be dry in a week or two, but it could take longer if the branches are thick or there’s humidity in the air. The herbs will “crunch” when crushed, letting you know they’re dry and ready to use. Strip leaves and store in an airtight container.
For oven drying, strip leaves from stems of herbs like sage, mint, rosemary, thyme, and parsley; place leaves in a single layer on a muslin-covered tray. Set your oven to the lowest possible temperature and put the tray in the oven with the door ajar for 2 to 4 hours, until herbs are crunchy, turning them over after 30 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the herbs in the oven until they’re cool.
To dry in the microwave, separate leaves from stems and make sure they’re dry. Place a single layer of leaves between two paper towels and set on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 1 minute; check for dryness. Continue heating in 30‑second intervals until fully dry, STOPPING THE MICROWAVE AT ANY POINT if you smell the herbs burning.
Fresh and dried herbs are both appropriate for cooking of course, but you need only one‑third of the amount of dried herbs for a recipe calling for fresh. In other words, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, you would use 1 teaspoon of dried parsley.
Make sure you use a nice sharp knife to chop your herbs, so whether you’re after a rough or fine chop, you’ll get the results you want. Rada’s Cook’s Knife and French Chef are both perfect choices. The Cook’s Knife has a shorter, straighter blade than the French Chef; the longer slightly rounded blade of the French Chef allows for rocking back and forth over the herbs.
Are you ready to use your herbs? There’s a wonderful one-pot recipe below for Shrimp Scampi that uses several different fresh herbs! Delicious!
INGREDIENTS (Serves 6)
1½ T. olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 T. minced fresh oregano
3 T. minced fresh parsley
½ C. apple juice
½ tsp. sugar
1½ T. butter
2 C. chicken stock
¾ C. water
8 oz. uncooked linguini pasta
1½ lbs. large raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 to 3 T. lemon juice
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ C. fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus more for serving
Salt and black pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a big deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté about 1 minute. Stir in the cayenne, oregano, parsley, apple juice, and sugar; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the butter until melted. Pour in the stock and water and bring everything to a boil.
Add the pasta and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring in the shrimp during the last 4 or 5 minutes, until pasta is al dente and shrimp turn pink. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and pepper then let rest a few minutes to thicken the sauce.
Sprinkle with Parmesan and additional fresh basil before serving.
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