5 Simple Steps to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Fresh Herbs

Say goodbye to soggy herbs with these smart storage tricks.

Sick of food waste? So are we. Fresh herbs are one of the biggest pains to preserve—and it can feel near impossible to use them up before their delicate leaves start to wilt.

Factors such as the amount of moisture, sunlight, temperature, and oxygen can cause fresh herbs to go bad faster. The key is to find the appropriate balance between these elements, which depends on the type of herb you're storing. Excessive moisture can cause soft herb leaves to wilt and become slimy, while too little moisture can dry out woody, hard herbs like rosemary and thyme. Excessive light can cause herbs to turn yellow, and too much oxygen will turn your leaves an unappetizing brown. Deciphering the appropriate temperature for your herbs' storing environment plays an important factor in determining whether your herb should be kept on the counter or stored in your fridge to prolong shelf life.

Here are five easy ways to avoid having to throw away soggy herbs before you're able to use them. Next time you're putting away your fresh herbs, consider these simple storage methods to ensure you get the most out of your delicate greens.

01 of 05

Figure Out What Kind of Herb You Have

Not all fresh herbs are created equally, and determining the type of herb you're working with is an essential first step in figuring out the best way to store your plant. Herbs will primarily fall into two distinct categories: soft and hard herbs. Soft herbs are generally categorized by their flexible, tender green stems with leafy (think: soft leaves such as parsley, cilantro, basil, and mint). Hard herbs have woody stems with firmer leaves (think: sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano). The two kinds require different storing methods to best ensure the levels of light, temperature, oxygen, and moisture are balanced to avoid spoilage.

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02 of 05

Wash (and Thoroughly Dry) Herbs Before Storing

Some people believe you shouldn't wash herbs before storing due to the additional moisture. However, washing your herbs will remove dirt and bacteria that promote rapid decay. Simply wash your herbs under cold, running water and remove all moisture in a salad spinner to ensure your greens are as dry as possible before storing.

03 of 05

Store Soft, Leafy Herbs (Like Parsley, Cilantro, Basil, and Mint) in Jars

Implement the "wet jar method" by gathering your herbs in a bunch and trimming the ends, as you would a bouquet of flowers. Then, place the greens in a jar (mason jars work great) with a small amount of cool water, enough to cover the ends, but not touching the leaves. Seal your jar with a lid or a plastic bag, store it in the fridge and replace the water every couple days or as it becomes discolored. This method will ensure your leaves remain hydrated and won't dry out in the cold refrigerator climate. It also limits the amount of oxygen coming into contact with the leaves to avoid browning. For basil, apply the "wet jar method," but store it on the kitchen counter where the plant can get sunlight, instead of inside the fridge.

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04 of 05

Keep Hard, Woody Herbs (Like Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Chives, and Oregano) in Damp Towels

Loosely wrap hard, woody herbs in a slightly damp paper towel to keep them moist enough to not don't dry out. Place them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or resealable bag to restrict oxygen from entering and avoid wilting. If you have a larger amount of herbs, you may want to bundle them in smaller batches individually to better control moisture levels. Make sure to re-moisten the paper towels as they become dry over time. If you're looking for an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative, you may want to invest in organic cotton, reusable herb/produce bags that help keep your herbs drier and fresher without creating additional waste.

05 of 05

Put Your Unused Herbs to Work, Too.

Proper care of your fresh herbs will extend shelf life upwards of two to three weeks. However, if you find that you won't need as much supply as you have on hand, don't let your unused herbs go to waste—dry or freeze them instead. Bundle your herbs with a rubber band, place in a paper lunch bag with holes for aeration and hang upside down in a warm, dry room until they are crisp to the touch and crumble easily. Alternatively, you can freeze your clean, fresh roughly chopped herbsin ice cube trays, filled with olive oil or water. These individually portioned herb cubes will be good to go in just eight hours and can be preserved for months for use at any time.

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