How To Store Fresh Herbs

Make that leftover cilantro last even longer

Incorporating fresh herbs in your cooking is an easy way to add robust flavor and freshness to any meal. Unfortunately, like most garden ingredients, those bunches of parsley and cilantro from the grocery don't last very long at home, especially if they aren't cleaned and stored properly. Too much moisture leads to slimy leaves, and not enough moisture dries them out. Here's what you need to know to avoid throwing your herbs (and your money) away.

How to Wash Herbs

An important tip is to wash your herbs before storing them, so they are clean and ready to be used anytime. Run small bunches of herbs under a stream of cool water and use your fingers to remove any dirt from the leaves. Then, delicately pat them dry with a paper towel. Another effective method is using a salad spinner, which allows you to work with larger bunches at a time. Either way, it's essential that the herbs are completely dry before putting them in the fridge, so they don't get slimy.

How to Store Fresh Herbs

The type of herb will affect how it is stored: Hard herbs with woody stems like rosemary, sage and thyme are stored differently than softer stems like parsley, tarragon, basil and cilantro.

For soft-stem herbs, once they've been cleaned, remove any wilted leaves, snip off the ends and place them in a glass or mason jar with about an inch of water (changing as needed). You can also cover the jar with a loosely fitting plastic bag or cling wrap. The one exception to this group is basil, which should be kept uncovered out on the counter in sunlight if possible. This method should buy you a few extra weeks.

After cleaning your hard, woody-stemmed herbs, wrap the bunch in a lightly damp paper towel and slip them inside a resealable plastic bag, plastic wrap or airtight container. The average life span for these is about 2-3 weeks.

Looking for new ways to use fresh herbs? Make sure to check out our recipes for grilled steak with cilantro-scallion purée, frozen mint lemonade and lemon-thyme bars.