I think we all know what it feels like to have herbs go bad. You buy them for a particular recipe or special event (Thanksgiving, anyone?) and then they languish for a few days in your fridge, unused and unloved, until you have to throw them in the trash. I’m completely guilty of this…I’ve used dried herbs to avoid the expense of buying fresh more times than I can count. Unfortunately, fresh herbs are so much better than dried, so I started experimenting with ways to make them last longer. Aside from growing your own, try using these tips to avoid using herbs as a one-use holiday ingredient (=expensive)!
1. Buy parsley and store it correctly
Parsley is used in a wide variety of recipes, but what you didn’t know is that it’s good on pretty much any food and that it stores amazingly well. When you bring a bunch of it home, immediately wash it, strip the leaves from the stems, and store the leaves in an air-tight container in your fridge. Parsley will stay good this way for weeks, not days! After using in your recipe, roughly chop the leaves and throw them in eggs, rice, pasta, mayonnaise, soup or anything else that needs a little herbalicious flavor. Pro tip: For bonus points and extra savings, keep the parsley stems to make stocks, beans or soups.
2. Be smart when storing other herbs
While there’s tons of advice out there for storing herbs in water or wet paper towels, that stuff takes time, effort, and makes for messy cleanup. I’ve found that the best way to store any herb besides parsley is to lay the branches side by side on pieces of paper towel and then store them in an airtight container. This will also work if you wrap the paper-towel-covered herbs in plastic wrap, but the constant wrapping/unwrapping might be too much effort for some.
3. Store your herbs in oil
This one is my personal favorite. It also makes your guests believe that you do lots of gourmet cooking in your spare time, which is always a plus! Simply chop the leaves of any desired leftover herb (rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.), put them in a small glass container or mason jar, and add olive oil. Herbs store incredibly well this way, which is awesome, but herb-infused olive oil without the expense of specialty oil is genius. Try this drizzled on your food and impress both your guests and your tastebuds. Pro tip: For extra adventure, try adding a clove of garlic, a little shallot or pepper to your creation.
4. Store your herbs in butter
I know, I know, this is a bit like the last tip, but I promise it’s just as delicious. Chop the leaves of any desired leftover herb and mix with room-temperature butter (unsalted or salted, your choice). Reform the butter in the top of a butter dish (if it’s decently butter-shaped, of course!) or dollop on a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up, and form the butter into a rectangle or oval. Place in the fridge, and enjoy in the place of regular butter, or dolloped on anything from meat to soup as a condiment. This will stay good in the fridge for about a month. Get creative! This is another faux-gourmet impressive addition to any meal, without the added expense of specialty butter (I’ll keep it a secret if you will). Pro tip: use high-quality butter for exceptional taste.
5. Freeze your herbs
I usually only resort to this if I can’t see myself using my herbs within a month, but it can be very useful for storing seasonal herbs when you can buy them on the cheap. Take any old ice cube tray, fill the spaces with olive oil, butter, water or stock, and mix in the chopped leaves of any herb of your choice. These cubes will store in the freezer indefinitely. Want herb flavor? Simply throw in cubes of your herb mixture into soups, pastas, roasting vegetables, or melt and pour over meat.
Since I started actually using the herbs that I buy, they’ve quickly become part of my family’s everyday fare. Having fresh herbs to brighten up your regular food can make a mediocre day into a good one in seconds. It’s even better that it only takes a tiny learning curve and just a few minutes to get started.
This is a guest post by Sharon from Sun Valley, ID.