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What is the best way to store fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro? I find I have about the same luck with them whether they are left in a plastic bag or I put them in a cup of water.

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Easy, dry them out ;) –  Brendan Long Jul 10 '10 at 3:02
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Make sure that the herbs are clean of dirt. Different herbs live differently. Show you can put in vases like flowers, rosemary and thyme don't need to be tightly covered and tarragon likes to be wrapped in a damp paper towel. –  Adam S Jun 21 '11 at 2:21
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17 Answers

If you're going to store anything leafy in a plastic bag, I wrap it first in a paper towel, then in the plastic bag, so none of the leaves touch the bag. This prevents the issue where the outer leaves turn to goo. (I'm not sure what the actual biological issue is ... moisture/condensation? poor respiration?)

Don't wash it before storage, as the extra moisture will cause it to rot faster.

I think I've gotten as long as a month out of flat leaf parsley, when I buried them in the back of my crisper drawer and forgot about them. (of course, I wasn't constantly opening the bag as you would when using them, and I'm not sure exactly when I placed it in there, as I had forgotten about it).

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Whenever I buy greens from the supermarket, they are always misted with water over there... They are rather damp. Should I dry them all out on a chopping board first? Also, does the rubber band around the stems have any negative effect? –  Slav Apr 25 at 20:58
    
@slav : Yes, you don't want to leave too much water on them, or they'll rot. The rubber band doesn't help as it keeps everything tightly packted together, so any moisture that forms from transpiration will have less air to evaporate. –  Joe Apr 26 at 0:48
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Personally I think the best way to store fresh herbs is to use a small herb garden. I just planted one and found it very useful for things like thyme, rosemary, and parsley.

If you don't have room for a small herb garden then a plastic bag in the fridge is usually the next best thing.

Update: Cool link on popular mechanics on growing a garden in 5 gallon drywall buckets.

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I can't seem to grow Cilantro without killing it –  Zaphoid Jul 9 '10 at 20:11
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@Zaphoid: Isn't that the idea? :-) –  Vinko Vrsalovic Jul 9 '10 at 21:49
    
This is the best thing I've done. Nothing beats going out for fresh basil. Or mint for your julips and mojitos ;) –  squillman Jul 28 '10 at 21:03
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@VinkoVrsalovic - This is only OK if the herbs are treated humanely. For example, all my cilantro is free-range, cage-free, and have access to the outside. –  anon Jan 30 '12 at 16:52
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Basil: Make sure the leaves are dry! Use a papertowel to dry them off. Then, trim the end of each stem, and put the basil in a glass of water. Avoid having any leaves below the waterline. Change the water regularly. Keep it at room temperature.

Parsley and Cilantro: Same instructions except refrigerate with a baggie loosely over the herbs. Be sure they're not in an area of the fridge that gets extremely cold.

Rosemary: Wrap in a damp towel, and put it inside a baggie in the refrigerator.

However you store them, be sure to clean them up again after you get them out for use. Remove any yellowed leaves, give them fresh water, and make sure there's no leaves below the water line.

As others have mentioned, for longer storage, you can freeze herbs if longer storage time is needed.

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Refrigerator storage methods

Some tender herbs (ex: cilantro/coriander and parsley) can be refrigerated by placing them in a cup of water (like a bouquet of flowers) and covering with a plastic bag. And like a bouquet, you'll want to change the water regularly. Ref: JustRightMenus, Michael Pryor

You can also get away with simply wrapping them in a paper towel and then in plastic, or wrapped with ice in paper. This will tend to work better for more hardy leaves (ex: rosemary, sage) Ref: Joe, Ryan Olson, TheComfortOfCooking.com

Freezer storage methods

For long-term storage, you can freeze cold-tolerant herbs. Seal in air-tight freezer bags, or submerse in liquid to prevent them from drying out, freeze as quickly as possible, and store as cold as possible. Try not to thaw before using. Ref: bubu, Kev

Room temperature storage methods

Some herbs (basil...) don't handle cold well. To keep these fresh, or if you simply don't have space in your fridge, you can try the same "flower bouquet" technique mentioned above, but without the bag over the top. Set out of direct sunlight and change the water periodically. Ref: JustRightMenus, Dinah, franko

You could also simply cultivate a miniature herb garden, and pick what you want when you need it - doesn't get any more fresh than that! Ref: Bryant

Other (not-so-fresh storage)

You can, with minimal effort, make a herb-flavored oil or vinegar by simply submerging fresh herbs in a good-quality oil or vinegar. Exercise caution when storing oils made with fresh herbs though, as if not properly refrigerated they can foster the growth of dangerous bacteria.

Drying is a great way to keep some herbs around for off-season use. Hang a bunch in a dark, dry place until thoroughly dried, then store in an air-tight container away from heat.

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I tend to wrap any leafy vegetables/herbs in paper towel or put them in a paper bag when putting them in the crisper. Instead of retaining the moisture, it lets it escape preventing the nasty sludgy rotting effect of dampness. It'll maybe give you a few extra days as the stuff will slowly dry out or wilt, but shouldn't become slimy.

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I think I like this option the most but it does seem strange to use paper towels like that. –  tooshel Jul 29 '10 at 16:07
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StillTasty.com has good instructions for fresh cilantro and parsley.

BTW: the advice for these 2 happens to be the same but it's not the same for all herbs. For example, here's their advice for basil.

Their site has good advice for other herbs and foods as well. The one thing that they do that drives me crazy is disabling highlighting so I can't copy/paste.

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  1. Take a cup and fill with water.
  2. Put the cilantro in the cup (as if they were flowers)
  3. Place a ziploc bag over the top of the cilantro and loosely fit it around the top of the cup
  4. Place the cup in the fridge.

It should last a VERY long time like this.

I learned this from Joel.

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I use this method. It allows cilantro to last about a week sometimes a week and a half. –  chrisjlee Jun 24 '11 at 19:38
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My method is similar to Joe's, but I skip the plastic bag entirely. I wrap a bunch of herbs in a towel, then put a few ice cubes in a fold of the towel. They melt slowly enough to keep the towel just a bit moist, and our herbs last for weeks.

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Freeze it. Most herbs freezes well and do not lose the scent easily. The only caveat is that the color is usually lost. It is rather a trade off.

In a way, drying preserves more of the color and presentation of the herb, but freezing preserves more of its flavors.

In my opinion, get those resealable bags, put them in, squeeze the air out, put into fast-freeze compartment, take it back into the normal freezer compartment after 1 day, then store for up to 3 months.

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Works better for some herbs than other. Basil fails completely with freezing. Parsley works great though. –  yossarian Jul 23 '10 at 20:54
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i actually have had a bit of success keeping it in a small vase on the counter, out of a lot of direct sun! i change the water every day, and trim the ends of the stems a bit to keep the ends from going slimy.

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well heck -- i was just randomly surfing some cooking blogs i frequent, and look what i found: comfortofcooking.blogspot.com/2010/07/… –  franko Jul 29 '10 at 0:13
    
+1 from me, it's my preferred method of keeping pretty much any herb that I use –  Rob Jul 29 '10 at 14:41
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If only there were a way to automate changing the water :) –  tooshel Jul 29 '10 at 16:05
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Many herbs freeze quite well (works better if you have a fast chill compartment which reduces the chances of water crystals forming in the flesh).

When you come to use them prepare what you need right out of the freezer and straight into your dish.

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If you only need to preserve them for a few days after getting them fresh, just using some aluminum foil to create a sealed package and store them on the fridge usually works out pretty well.

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I've found that herbs packed in a vacuum, and then maybe put in the fridge, preserve their taste and smell for quite a long time.

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You'll probably only get 10 days of freshness in the fridge, so consider freezing it. You will lose some of the freshness, but it can still be useful for seasoning soups, stews, etc. Freezing, as a means of preservation, works for lots of foods.

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Freezing, or consider making a paste of it together with some oil (and store well). You'll lose the effect of fresh leaves, but it'll stay good a while longer.

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Zaphoid, have you tried using special "Produce bags" sold in supermarkets? These have tiny perforations in the plastic that let the veggies or herbs breathe and also cut down on the excess moisture, they have a zipper and can be washed dried and reused. Do not use these bags for mushrooms which should go in small brown paper lunch bags.

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I like the comment from @DaveVoutila best. I don't use a paper bag, though - just paper towels. The herbs will eventually wilt, but they'll still be fine for soups, stocks, etc. In fact, in time, they'll become rather similar to dried herbs.

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