Herb Storage and Preservation 101

herb planter ready to harvest

Ready to harvest

Herb storage methods vary depending on the herb. Although (according to some comedians) “it ain’t rocket surgery,” it does help to have a few guidelines in hand.

Harvesting Herb

When possible, try to harvest before the herb flowers. For many herbs this will be in late summer or when the weather starts to cool down. Harvest after the morning dew has dried, in the middle of the morning but before noon. Avoid rinsing if at all possible. If you must rinse herbs, use cool water only and pat them dry thoroughly to prevent mold and rot.

Chives, Rosemary, Thyme, Low-Moisture Herb

Do not rinse. Wrap stems loosely in a paper towel then wrap loosely in cling wrap so that any moisture can escape. Store in refrigerator (in warmest area). Rinse just before use.

Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, High-Moisture Herb

Trim ends. Do not rinse. Stand stems upright in vase or water glass containing an inch of water. Keep at room temperature. Rinse just before use. This is called bouquet-style herb storage – here’s a very informative article.

Drying Fresh Low-Moisture Herb

Chop the leaves of cilantro, parsley or basil. Keep leaves whole for thyme and rosemary. Place leaves or chop on a plate and tuck it away in a cool, dry spot for about a week. Once dried, store in sealable bags or bottles and refrigerate. This technique works best for bay, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, summer savory and thyme.

To dry herb stems, select a half dozen evenly sized branches, strip the bottom inch of the branch and tie together at the very bottom. Place each bundle in a paper bag, tied end up top, and tie the bag closed loosely. Hang the bag upside down in a warm room, checking every week until herbs are dry and ready for storage.

Drying Fresh High-Moisture Herb

Preserve high moisture herb by placing in a dehydrator or by freezing. This technique works best for basil, chives, mint and tarragon. No dehydrator? Try stretching a layer of cheesecloth over a sweater rack and spreading your herbs out on top.

Bottom Line

It’s so simple to have a batch of fresh herbs on hand in your kitchen – not a lot of work and plenty of culinary reward!