A Perfect Pantry

Storing Fresh Herbs

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    A sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs can add zing to leftover soups, pastas or side dishes. But how often have you added a bouquet of fresh herbs to the shopping trolley, only to find it has wilted and lost its lustre days later?

    Some herbs, such as basil, can really dent the grocery budget, so it makes sense to put in place good habits to avoid throwing money away.

    We’ve put together some simple tips to ensure no fresh herbs go to waste. Most varieties - with the exception of basil - keep well with adequate care and refrigeration. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to enjoy cooking with favourite herbs for up to two weeks, and even more if you preserve them.

    • Fresh herbs are similar to freshly cut flowers - both need a trim and a bit of water to survive. Trim the ends of the fresh herbs and add to a glass of cold water. Cover with a thin plastic bag and keep refrigerated. Change the water and trim the stems once every 1-2 days.
      • For basil, we recommend keeping the glass with the herb bouquet at room temperature instead of the refrigerator.
      • Mum’s go-to trick? Wrap herbs in newspaper or a paper towel, then into a plastic bag and store in the fridge. For best results, store in the vegetable crisper or door compartment.
      • Have more leaves than you need?
        • Create delicious garlic and herb butters or fragrant pesto sauces using excess leaves.
        • Freeze fresh herbs: leafy varieties such as basil, coriander and parsley are best chopped and sealed in a zip lock bag before storing in the freezer. Woodier stemmed herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, can be frozen whole in stem form. Of course, fresh frozen herbs won’t work well as a garnish - these are best reserved for dishes that require cooking.
        • Dry herbs: possibly the simplest and most cost-effective way of storing herbs is by drying them.  Low moisture content herbs including bay leaves, dill, marjoram, oregano and rosemary work best. To retain the flavour and oil content, dry herbs naturally or use a food dehydrator. Use healthy branches and discard any wilted or diseased leaves. Tie a bouquet together using string and hang upside down in a warm, airy room. Allow plenty of space for air to circulate and ensure leaves are not wet, as this can produce mould. Check in two weeks to see how the drying is progressing, and continue checking weekly until your herbs are dry and ready to store in airtight containers.
        • Bought a pack of Kaffir lime leaves but only need a few for cooking?  These also freeze well for several weeks when frozen from fresh.
        • A simple homemade vinaigrette drizzled over salad leaves goes a long way. Keep a glass jar filled with one part vinegar to three parts oil, flavour with chopped fresh herbs and store in the fridge.
          • Tip: a light, neutral-flavoured oil such as vegetable, sunflower or rice bran oil tastes delicious and sits well in the fridge. These types of oils won’t solidify in colder temperatures as other varieties might, allowing you to shake and serve as needed.

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    Guest 23 February 2024

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