How many times have you purchased or picked fresh herbs and watched them wilt, dry out, turn soggy, black, or mold before you could consume them? For years I’ve searched for the best way to extend the life of fresh herbs.
Been here, done this?
I tried standing them in a jar of water, like a bouquet, with and without a plastic bag on top. Perched precariously in an over-crowded refrigerator, the jar too easily tipped over. I left the herbs in their original packaging (a plastic box or bag) with and without a dry paper towel to absorb moisture. I wrapped them in a damp paper towel within a plastic bag, also tried a dry cotton kitchen towel, a cotton canvas bag, and, tossing the bundle of herbs into the crisper bin with other vegetables. The herbs absorbed odors from other foods, lost their fragile fragrances, or suffered a rough and untimely death.
I had less luck leaving fresh basil on the counter, although I have heard that it fares well that way. Perhaps because I keep my house fairly warm, even in the summer, herbs held like flowers at room temp wilt within a day or two, becoming unusable for anything other than brief entertainment for the cats. At one point, it seemed the best way to keep parsley, basil, cilantro, and other fresh herbs was to place them in a plastic bag lined with a dry, unbleached paper towel in the refrigerator.
That was until I discovered The Herb Keeper©, a tall, lightweight, thick, plastic patent-pending product promising to keep herbs hydrated and fresh longer than my previous storage options. The long tube- shaped canister stores one to three bunches of fresh herbs at a time—parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano, thyme, and others–for up to three weeks in the refrigerator. Although I generally frown on plastic tools, this gadget won me over in early 2005 when I was introduced to it.
Basil in photo right after 6 days at room temp in the uncovered Herb Keeper with water in the bottom of the container.
How it works
To use The Herb Keeper, add fresh water to the base on the continaer up to the fill line. Twist the top of the Herb Keeper onto to expose the base. Trim the ends of the herbs by one-half inch (as with fresh flowers) and place them in the Herb Keeper, immersing them in the water. Put the cap on top, store in the refrigerator, and change the water every three to four days. (The clear container allows you to see the herbs and monitor the water level.Do change the water ever few days and re-trim the stems a quarter of an inch.)
Although most herbs require refrigeration, basil and cilantro fare poorly in cold temperatures. Keep them on the counter. Simply, add cool water to the fill line and keep the herb-filled container on the counter without the black rubber lid.
At some point, maybe a few years ago, I filed the Herb Keeper away in a cabinet behind a stack of pots (that I do use) and forgot about it’s utility. Last week, after returning from the farmers’ market with a lovely, local bunch of basil, I decided to hoist it out of hiding and put it to use again. The previous week’s basil died prematurely standing in a cup of water, despite my trimming the stems so I wanted to see if the Herb Keeper would indeed keep it fresh at room temp…and it did!
I purchased this bunch of basil on Wednesday morning. I shot the picture this morning, after trimming the stems and changing the water for the second time, 6 days later. I will probably make pesto or something else with it in the next few days. What other method would keep it so fresh looking for so long?
The Herb Keeper does doubles as a storage unit for asparagus. Add a small amount of water to the base, remove the lid (most asparagus spears will stick out the top of the container), and refrigerate. The spears won’t dry out and will taste fresher for a few more days.
Buy it, you’ll like it. If you regularly buy and use parsley, basil, cilantro, and other fresh herbs, you want to extend their life and retain more flavor and texture until you can use them, this tool is worth investing in. It doesn’t cost much and you’ll quickly recoup what you previously lost in wasted herbs.