How to keep fresh herbs longer

This is not a sexy post.  At least, not so if you define sexy in fattened goose livers and truffles from Alba. This is as many of our posts, practical.  If you want foie gras, Iranian caviar, Alba truffles and more of the same, you may book the Degustation menu in Chef Lij’s restaurant. Otherwise, here, we make simple food easy and tasty for homely everyday cooking.

In fancy fine dining restaurants like the one Chef Lij works in, herbs and micro-greens are ordered and delivered daily. This means there is nary a wilted parsley or micro green in your garnish.  He orders through a complex system of purveyors who specially supply restaurants and where necessary, will fly in food cargo to special terminals for express delivery, all the while being stored at optimal temperatures and humidity during transporation.  But, again, this is not a fancy restaurant, it is our humble home kitchen and our purveyors are the supermarkets and markets of the Middle East.  We do not have access to daily harvested herbs nor the space for a herb garden and if you shop on the wrong day of the week, you will get herbs that look ready for the compost heap instead of your dinner plate.

Since market day is only once per week, fresh herbs  have a 7-day cycle.  They only get worse as the week wears on. At least, until you start applying the tricks we gleaned from our Dubai-based chef and food stylist friend, Fiona Archibold. Fiona is one of the premier food stylists in the country and has a solid background as a private chef (Ferrari among her former clients).  When a real food lover tells us something about extending the life of food, we listen.

Usually, I would put herbs in a ziploc bag in the fridge with a dry paper towel. That was better than leaving it out on the counter but so it leaving them in a bucket of water- but that only lasts a day or so before the stems begin to get water-logged and start to rot. I love fresh herbs so, I end up having a lot of waste as I try to get batches from different sources that look a little better from the last. I would dump batches of parsley, coriander, parsley and dill weekly because they just couldn’t stay fresh and looked pathetic after a few days.  Alas, no more!

Here is our confession. The naked truth. The coriander/cilantro pictured is over 2 weeks old. No, we are not joking. Yes, we are telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The secret is lining an airtight container with a few sheets of damp paper towel, then adding the herbs and spraying with a mist with either a brumisateur or a small spray bottle that sprays a light mist (use spring water).  Cover the herbs (you may put several kinds together) and keep refrigerated. Take out what you need and put them back in the fridge. We have been keeping these for an experiment to see how long they will look and taste fresh.  So, far, it’s two weeks and counting!  If this doesn’t excite you, then you will have to tell us just what will!

36 responses to “How to keep fresh herbs longer

  1. Super tip Kari… thank you for sharing x

  2. Amazing…2 weeks!! The longest my lasted was a week – thanks for sharing :)

    • They lasted for a sum total of 6 weeks. We pushed them as far as they would go just to test – we love an experiment! You will have yours until you finish the bundle- no more dumping because of wilting!

  3. Hallelujah! I’ve been hunting for a technique to keep herbs fresh for ages…I knew there was a technique out there and never could quite get my hands on it. You guys rock, thank you!

  4. This is a very useful tip…thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Raji, we aim to add value to our readers. If you take the time to visit and read our blog, we want to make sure it is worth your time! The fact that you find the tip useful makes it worth it :)

  5. Do you have to re-spray when you open the container? Or is the inital spray enough to keep them fresh?

    • If I see that they could use a pep up, I will spray, otherwise no need to do so every time you open. The container actually keeps water trapped under the cover so they get their own transpiration going on.

  6. EXACTLY what i’ve been looking for! I’ve been so frustrated with my herbs! I can’t wait to try this!

  7. Yep it works! That’s the best way to do it. Rosemary is probably the sturdiest of all the herbs, so just imagine how long you could keep that guy fresh!

  8. Great tips here….I can’t believe those are 2 weeks old- they look better than mine the day I buy them! One question- when you say cover them in the container, what do you cover them with?

    • Thanks Sukaina! Cover with the lid of the container. You should use an air-tight container. The ones with the rubber seal sold in all supermarkets here in Dubai are what we have used. This also helps to revitalize slightly lackluster herbs.

  9. Kari. You just changed my life. Like my WHOLE life. Seriously. Two weeks old????? Thanks for sharing you wonderful tip!!!

  10. That is such a valuable tip for us. I’ve spent twice on fancy gadgets to preserve herbs and it takes me all my time to close the door without bashing the living daylights out of the poor herbs before they’re even put in the fridge. This is far better. Just one question: if you put other herbs in there together, will they not take on all the different flavours? Or does it not matter?

    • Jill, herbs may take on other flavours, so for truly purist purposes, you could have a herb box for each herb, though we wouldn’t bother to pack up our already tight fridge for that, especially since fresh herbs tend to retain more of their own essence and oils than the dried ones when put together.

  11. Fabulous! This is sure to save some money in the winter when I don’t have my pots of fresh herbs growing outside.

  12. Excellent idea..thank you for sharing. I will try this next time I buy herbs.

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have wasted so much money on herbs, great tip.

    • Sandra, you will waste no more! We just threw out ours… 6 weeks later. We waited to see how long they would keep fresh. Some leaves were spoiling but the majority were still great! We are not saying keep em for six weeks, but just that you can get more for your money!

  14. NOICE…NOOICCEEE….wish I knew that before I threw out my newest bundle of rosemary after only using a few sprigs from it…..definitely feel better equipped to take on the world! Guess what I’m having for dinner…Thyme Roasted Chicken…yummy. Thanks kari and Lij.

  15. Pingback: Love at first bite- how to make your food taste better | Chef and Steward

  16. You don’t know how grateful I am for this tip AND the proof that it works. I have been unsuccessfully been experimenting with different methods for over a year now. The longest my herbs have lasted is one week after which I have no choice but to dump all of the bundle. (such a waste). Thanks to you my parsley, basil, thyme and mint will last longer so my food will taste better. Ah gone to buy my individual containers for each herb now! Will let you know how long they last.

    • We try to put up or show up, so that we maintain our credibility. Do come back and share your pics with us! Isn’t amazing just how much these little things make all the difference to those of us who cook? Every mickle mek a muckle :)

  17. I have been usung the Ball brand herb keeper. You put a couple of inces of water in the bottom. My thyme and chives stayed good for 3 weeks. I paid 10 dollars for it at Walmart. Well worth the money!!!!

  18. Thank you, I use the same method for my green chillies. I take the stem off, and line a plastic container with paper napkins. The chillies stay fresh for a long time.

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