How To Store Fresh Herbs

fresh herbs on cutting board

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Learning how to store fresh herbs is an essential key to retain their flavor, aroma, and beneficial properties.  Herbs are nature’s gift to those who like to cook. They add flavor and complexity to any dish. Whether you grow them in your garden or purchase them fresh from the grocery store, properly storing herbs is essential in order to enjoy their freshness for longer periods.

Related: Guide to Cooking with Herbs

How Long Will Fresh Herbs Last in the Fridge?

fresh herbs on a cutting board

On average, herbs will stay fresh from 1-2 weeks if stored properly.  We break it down in the next few sections to answer all your questions. 

How Long Do Fresh Herbs Last?

The shelf life of fresh herbs can vary depending on several factors, including the type of herb, how they are stored, and their freshness at the time of purchase or harvest. Below we have put together a guide for how long some common fresh herbs can last under ideal conditions:

  • Basil: Fresh basil is quite delicate. It typically lasts for about 5 to 7 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. 
  • Parsley: Unlike basil, parsley is relatively hardy. It can last for up to 1 to 2 weeks when stored correctly. 
  • Cilantro (Coriander): Cilantro tends to wilt quickly. However, when it is stored properly, it can last for about 1 to 2 weeks. 
  • Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, and Oregano: These woody herbs have a longer shelf life compared to delicate herbs. When stored properly in the refrigerator, they can last for up to 2 to 3 weeks. 
  • Mint: Fresh mint can last for about 1 to 2 weeks when stored correctly in the refrigerator. 

It’s important to acknowledge that these are general estimates. The actual shelf life of fresh herbs may vary based on other factors such as temperature, humidity, and the condition of the herbs when purchased or harvested. 

Keeping herbs dry and avoiding moisture buildup is crucial to preventing mold and spoilage. Additionally, regularly check for any signs of wilting, discoloration, or mold, and discard any herbs that show signs of deterioration in order to preserve the bunch.

Why Do Herbs Go Bad?

close up of herbs

Herbs, like any other fresh produce, can go bad due to a multitude of factors. Understanding these factors will help you prolong the shelf life of your herbs and reduce waste. Here are some potential reasons why herbs often go bad:

Moisture: Excess moisture can accelerate the decay of herbs by promoting the growth of mold and bacteria. When herbs are stored improperly, moisture can get trapped inside which makes them more  prone to mold and spoilage. It’s essential to keep herbs dry and properly ventilated to prevent moisture buildup.

Oxygen Exposure: Exposure to oxygen can also cause herbs to deteriorate more quickly. This can lead to browning, wilting, or loss of flavor. Oxygen promotes oxidation, which can degrade the essential oils and antioxidants present in herbs. Storing herbs correctly can help reduce oxygen exposure and prolong freshness.

Temperature: Herbs are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Exposure to extreme heat or cold can cause their deterioration. Maintaining the ideal temperature for each herb type is crucial for preserving their freshness.

Light Exposure: Exposure to light, especially direct sunlight, can cause herbs to degrade more rapidly. UV radiation from sunlight can break down the chlorophyll and other pigments in the leaves, leading to discoloration and loss of flavor. 

Handling and Bruising:

Rough handling or bruising during harvesting, transportation, or storage can damage the delicate leaves of herbs. This makes them more susceptible to spoilage. It’s essential to handle herbs delicately and gently.

Age and Freshness: Like any fresh produce, herbs have a limited shelf life. Their quality declines over time. The longer herbs are stored, the more their flavor, aroma, and nutritional content diminish. Using fresh herbs soon after harvesting or purchasing them ensures optimal flavor and quality.

By understanding these factors that contribute to herb spoilage, you can take steps to store your herbs properly and extend their shelf life. 

Should You Wash Herbs Before Storing?

Herbs in colander

Whether or not you should wash herbs before storing them depends on many factors. Some main factors include how the herbs were grown, their intended use, and how soon you plan to use them. Below are some circumstances to consider:

Dirt and Debris: Freshly harvested herbs may show some dirt or debris.. Washing herbs before storage can help remove these contaminants, ensuring that your herbs are clean and safe to use later.

Moisture Content: Herbs contain delicate leaves that can wilt quickly if exposed to excess moisture. Washing herbs before storage adds moisture to the leaves, which can accelerate spoilage. If you do wash your herbs, be sure to dry them thoroughly before storing them to minimize moisture buildup.

Intended Use: If you plan to use the herbs immediately in dishes that require washing, such as salads or soups, washing them beforehand may be more convenient. However, if you’re storing herbs for later use in recipes where they will be added directly without washing, such as garnishes or infusions, washing before storage may not be necessary.

Storage Method: The storage method you choose for your herbs can also influence whether you wash them before storing. For herbs that will be refrigerated, washing and thoroughly drying them before storage can help prevent mold and spoilage. On the other hand, if you plan to dry or freeze the herbs, washing them beforehand may not be necessary, as any contaminants will be removed during the drying or freezing process.

In summary, whether you should wash herbs before storing depends on your preferences, the herb’s source, and how you plan to use them. If you choose to wash them, be sure to dry them thoroughly before storage to minimize moisture buildup and prolong their freshness.

How Do You Choose the Right Storage Method?

The ideal storage method depends on the type of herb and how you intend to use it. Here are some common methods:

Refrigeration: Many delicate herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley benefit from refrigeration. To store them, gently wash and dry the herbs, then wrap them in a damp paper towel and place them in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container. Store them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer, where they can stay fresh for up to a week or two..

Freezing: Freezing herbs is an excellent way to preserve their flavor and aroma for an extended period. Below we have some different methods and ideas on the best way to freeze different herbs.

Drying: Drying herbs is one of the oldest methods of preservation and works well for herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Tie the herbs into small bundles and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Once completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Dried herbs can retain their flavor for up to a year.

Infusing Oils or Vinegars: Another creative way to preserve herbs is by infusing them into oils or vinegars. Simply pack a clean, dry jar with fresh herbs and cover them with oil or vinegar of your choice. Seal the jar tightly and let it sit in a cool, dark place for a few weeks to allow the flavors to infuse. Strain out the herbs and transfer the infused oil or vinegar to a clean bottle for storage. These infused liquids add depth of flavor to dressings, marinades, and sauces. One of our favorite infused oils is Garlic and Rosemary Infused Oil.

Can You Freeze Herbs?

herbs on sheet pan

Yes, you can freeze herbs to preserve their freshness for extended periods. Freezing herbs is an excellent way to ensure you have access to their flavors year-round. Here’s how to freeze herbs effectively:

Choose Fresh Herbs: Start with fresh, high-quality herbs. Harvest them from your garden or purchase them from your local grocery store or supermarket. Choose herbs that are vibrant, free from blemishes, and at their peak freshness.

Wash and Dry: Rinse the herbs gently under cool water. Shake off excess water or pat them dry with paper towels. It’s essential to ensure that the herbs are completely dry before freezing to prevent ice crystals from forming and damaging the delicate leaves.

Prepare for Freezing:

  • Option 1: Whole Leaves – For herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage, you can freeze them whole. Simply lay the dry herb sprigs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure they are not touching each other. Place them in the freezer until they are frozen solid. Once frozen, transfer the herb sprigs to a labeled freezer bag or airtight container, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
  • Option 2: Chopped – For herbs like basil, parsley, or cilantro, it’s best to chop them before freezing. Chop the herbs finely or leave them slightly coarse, depending on your preference. Spread the chopped herbs evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, ensuring they are in a single layer and not clumped together. Freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen herbs to a labeled freezer bag or airtight container, removing excess air before sealing.

Label and Date: It’s essential to label the freezer bags or containers with the herb type and the date of freezing. This ensures that you can easily identify them later and use them before they lose their freshness.

Store in the Freezer: Place the labeled freezer bags or containers in the freezer, making sure they are stored flat to prevent them from sticking together. Frozen herbs can typically last for several months if properly stored.

Usage Tips: When you’re ready to use the frozen herbs, you can add them directly to soups, stews, sauces, or other cooked dishes without thawing. For recipes that require fresh herbs, you can thaw the frozen herbs in the refrigerator before using them. 

By following these steps, you can effectively freeze herbs to enjoy their flavors and aromas long after they are harvested. Freezing herbs is a convenient and practical way to preserve their freshness and ensure you always have access to your favorite herbs for cooking and culinary creations.

Related: Freezing Herbs

Tips for Success

  • Always use clean and dry containers when storing herbs to prevent mold and spoilage.
  • Label your containers with the herb name and the date of storage to keep track of freshness.
  • Consider using vacuum-sealed bags or containers to extend the shelf life of your herbs even more.
  • If you’re short on time, consider making herb butter or herb pastes, which can be frozen in ice cube trays for easy portioning and use.

Storing herbs properly allows you to enjoy their flavors and benefits long after the harvest season has ended. Whether you choose to refrigerate, freeze, dry, or infuse your herbs, each method offers a unique way to preserve nature’s bounty. Experiment with different techniques to find the ones that work best for your favorite herbs and culinary creations. With a little care and attention, you can savor the taste of fresh herbs every day of the year.

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About Kristin

Kristin Ahaus is the Director of Content and Communications for The Produce Moms. Her focus and passion is helping all of TPM's brand partners share their stories while also helping consumers understand how to select, serve and store fresh produce. Connect with Kristin on LinkedIN.

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