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Culinarily Curious: A re'fresh'er course in keeping herbs fresh

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 28, 2012 09:08 AM

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indoor herb garden.jpgBy Anthony Howard

Fresh herbs are a great way to add flavor and color to your meals. A simple bundle of herbs can jazz up even the most boring meal of chicken and rice. The problem is keeping those herbs fresh.

Most people buy a bunch of different herbs from the grocery store and stick them in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator until they need them -- except that when they're finally ready to use them, they discover a bag filled with brown, wilted mush.

A few simple solutions will keep your herbs fresher longer (and give you some decorative greenery for your kitchen).

All herbs are different: Some, like basil, parsley, and cilantro, don’t take well to the cold and prefer to sit at room temperature; others enjoy hanging out in a cooler, dry place until you're ready to use them. For those herbs that like room temperature, fill a cup with an inch or two of water and place the bundle of herbs in the cup. Keep the cup on your kitchen counter, and just pull out and stem the herbs as you need them. If you change the water every day or two, your herbs should last about a week.

Herbs like thyme and rosemary prefer those cool, dry places -- but that doesn't mean that bottom fridge drawer! Instead, place them loosely in a plastic bag and store them on one of the shelves on your fridge door. I also recommend wrapping a dry paper towel around the herbs; it'll absorb any moisture that might form and cause the herbs to mold.

When your herbs are past their prime, don’t throw them away! If you dry them out and save them for a later use, those herbs could add a really nice flavor boost to soups and stews. To prepare room-temperature herbs for drying, chop them finely and set them in a cool, dry place in your kitchen for about four days; leave refrigerator herbs whole while they're drying. Once dried, store your herbs in a container in the fridge until you're ready to use them.

If you store your herbs properly, you’ll get the best flavor out of them -- and drying them after their peak will ensure that you don’t waste anything.

Do you use fresh herbs when you cook?

'Culinarily Curious' is TNGG Boston's column on all things food, written by Anthony Howard.

Photo by Tassike.ee - Marju Randmer (Flickr)

About Anthony -- I'm a 22-year-old Massachusetts native -- grew up in the 'burbs and now spend my young adult life in the city. I am passionate about cooking and currently assistant manage a restaurant kitchen in Kendall Square. Let's just say that when I invite friends over for dinner parties, no one ever turns me down.

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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