Why You Should Always Treat Your Herbs Like Flowers

published Jan 2, 2018
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(Image credit: Ayumi Takahashi)

The refrigerator crisper drawer was undoubtedly invented with good intentions, but we all know what happens: You buy a few herbs for one recipe on Saturday, shove them back into the drawer, forget to use the rest of them Sunday, and remember them on Wednesday, only to discover a matted mass of dead herbs underneath a two-pound bag of carrots. You magically extract a tablespoon out of what’s left, and the rest of the herb bunch goes to waste. But what if there was a way to keep soft herbs fresh long enough that you could always have time to use the whole bunch?

Sheri Castle, the food writer and cookbook author behind “Le Creuset: A Collection of Recipes from Our French Table” and “Sugar, Butter, Flour: The Waitress Pie Book,” has one tip that solves everything. Sheri treats her herbs like flowers, starting the moment she purchases them.

Say you come home with a bunch of parsley. Rather than tossing it in the fridge along with your other vegetables, pretend it’s a bouquet, and care for it the same way: Start by unwinding the metal twist-tie or rubber band that keeps the herbs together. Next, clean out anything dead, dying, or mushy in the center of the bunch because herbs will last longer if they start clean. (As Sheri likes to say, mush and slime beget mush and slime, so get rid of it.) Cut a new fresh end on the stems, and place them in a jar with about an inch of cold water in the bottom, or just enough to keep the ends submerged. (Deeper water also encourages rot.) As soon as the water starts to look murky, trim new ends and change the water.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

The same technique applies to any herb that comes in a bundle, not in a box — think cilantro and basil, but not thyme or rosemary — and also happens to work miracles for asparagus, which last much longer in water. Always put each herb variety in its own container, because they don’t all last the same amount of time: Sheri says that at room temperature, cilantro and basil will last about three to five days, and parsley should last upwards of a week, provided the ambient temperature in your kitchen doesn’t get too extreme.

Bonus: Fresh herbs look (and smell) lovely sitting on the kitchen counter, so you’ll save money skipping the flower section!

We Believe in Tiny Kitchen Miracles

Even if you don’t believe in miracles, you probably believe in tiny miracles. They’re the little things that, against all odds, happen and make a huge difference in our lives. A tiny miracle can be a recipe that gets dinner on the table during the most hectic weekday, the little hack that finally organizes your fridge, a newfound motto that helps you stay on top of kitchen messes, or anything else that seems like a gift from above. To help us all start the new year off right, we asked some influential bloggers and cooks to share their biggest tiny miracles.