30 Days of Groceries

How to Store Fresh Herbs

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Wondering how to store fresh herbs? Dry them, douse them, rinse them or wrap them? There’s a litany of advice out there on what to do with fresh herbs once you've brought them home from the grocery store. And here's another piece of advice—in my opinion, the only advice you need: Get to know your herbs. Find out where they came from. Because the most popular culinary herbs hail from remarkably different climates—some warm, some cool—and where they come from has a lot to do with how you keep them happy.

Warm-Weather Herbs

Fresh Rosemary

What happy rosemary looks like.

Photo by Shutterstock

Aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, savory, and sage come from arid climes like the Mediterranean, where water is in short supply. (A good way to identify herbs needing this treatment is to feel their stems and leaves—are they woody, or coarse? If so, they are probably warm-weather herbs.) Dunking these plants in a jar of water is akin to unleashing the biblical floods of the red sea (in other words, not a great idea). These resinous herbs already have several defenses against desiccation—all you have to do is help them along to ensure their delicious perfumes are preserved. Wrap them in a paper towel and stash in a ziplock bag in the fridge. This way, they’ll keep for at least a week.

Want to store these kinds of herbs for even longer? Dry them on a windowsill and seal in a container in an airy, dark cabinet.

Cool-Weather Herbs

Soft stemmed, leafy herbs like cilantro, dill, chives, parsley, and mint are cool-weather herbs and gluttons for water. Deprive them of the temperate, moist environment they like best and they’ll shrivel like raisins in the sun. These plants do well washed, dried, the stems trimmed and placed in a glass of water in the fridge. Keep them for a week and they may even grow (mint has been known to sprout roots in these conditions).

Fresh Basil

How to keep your basil looking fresh.


Rinsing these herbs is an important and unskippable first step— it’s this action that removes damaging bacteria that will turn fresh herbs into puddles of unrecognizable sludge (I know you’ve all witnessed this).

The Exception: Basil

Of course, there always has to be a rule breaker, and in this case it’s the granddaddy of all herbs: basil. Soft stemmed, leafy, and powerfully aromatic, in its natural habitat, basil loves dazzling sunshine and heat. Put it in the fridge wrapped, rinsed or otherwise and it will wither, yellow, and quickly turn into that aforementioned sludge. To best preserve basil, rinse, dry, trim the stems and put in a vase on a sunny windowsill. Better yet, buy a hydroponically grown bunch with the roots still attached and plant it in a container of rich potting soil. One of the easiest windowsill grows, if basil is kept this way you might be able to skip the grocery store altogether. Learn how to store fresh herbs and you’ll have enough basil to make bruschetta all summer long.