Bunches of Fresh Greens and Herbs
The best way to store fresh soft herbs is in plastic, airtight containers in the fridge. Parsley, coriander and other soft herbs are stored successfully this way. If you have high containers that will fit into the door of your fridge, put a little water in the bottom, add your parsley or coriander etc, stalks down, and pop the lid on. Parsley especially responds to this way of storage.
Another way that works well is to place them in a new plastic bag designed to keep vegetables fresh for longer. You can even use supermarket large vegetable bags. Loosely tie the top and pop into the fridge.
If you are using the herbs very quickly, store them in jars in the fridge, in a jar like a bunch of flowers. Parsley and green coriander are great this way as well. If you am going to use them that day, leave them in the jar on the kitchen bench. It is not as good as using the plastic containers, but is excellent for quick use – and looks gorgeous too.
Before putting them in the jar, remove a couple of centimetres of the stem – a fresh cut just before placing in the jar ensure good water uptake by the stems.
I have an old large coffee press pot that no longer has the plunger, and it is perfect for this job. Additionally it fits so well into the door shelf of the fridge, so as long as I leave plenty of room above it, it is perfect for storing bunches of greens and herbs.
Greens – spinach, chard, silver beet, etc, – can be stored this way too.
Of course, change the water often for best freshness.
Fresh Salad Greens
For salad greens – these days they are mostly stored in containers that keep them fresh for days. But if you are buying salad greens loose, or your neighbour has kindly gifted you a pile of salad greens, then treat them this way. Soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes. Go through them and remove any yellowing leaves. Drain them in a colander, and then lay them on a tea towel. Roll the tea towel into a log and refrigerate. They leaves should stay fresh and crisp.
Often good plastic containers will also keep leaves that are well drained crisp for days.
Wilting and Freezing Greens
For longer storage, greens like spinach, chard, silver beet, rocket, endive, chicory, mesclun – wash them and then wilt them in a good saucepan until they reduce in volume. Add a tablespoon or so more water if necessary. As they wilt and before they are fully cooked, remove them with tongs, drain them briefly and pop them into ziplock bags. When cool, seal the bags and pop them in the freezer.
For tougher greens, like chicory, blanch or boil in salted water until cooked and then treat them the same way, removing them with tongs as soon as they are cooked. It is a good idea to separate the stems from the leaves, and cook the stems separately, as they take longer to cook.
I have heard of people who like to drink the strained cooking water as tea with lemon. It sounds good! Certainly it can be frozen for soup stock.
Pastes and Purees
Soft herbs can be made into pastes that will keep in the fridge for a long long time, and can be added to recipes as you require. The taste of the pastes is not as fresh and vibrant as fresh herbs, but they are delicious in their own right and certainly convenient if you do not have fresh herbs available.
Take some garlic cloves, about half a whole head, a bunch of mixed herbs with the bottom of the stems trimmed, a tspn of sea salt and a Tblspn of good olive oil. Blend all together in a blender or with a hand held immersion blender.
You can freeze this paste (in a zip lock bag makes for efficient storage) or place in a jar and top with more olive oil to cover in a thin layer, and store in the fridge. Remember that salt is the preservative in the puree, so don’t skimp on it.
You can add chilli, of course, and ginger if you wish. You can mix herbs or have one herb only. I generally have some coriander/cilantro paste at hand, and then I make other pastes when I know that I won’t use up the fresh herbs in my fridge. It is also good for celery leaves! And the white part of leeks can be added to the herbs.
Suggestions include parsley, dill, fennel tops, chervil, tarragon, mint and basil. My suggestion for basil is to make pesto and freeze that.
Herbs in The Freezer
If you remove the stems from herbs they can be frozen in a zip lock bag. They will maintain shape but can be crushed while frozen and still have a very good aroma and flavour. Try sage, basil, parsley, basil, fennel tops and other soft herbs.
Another way is to pack soft leaves into icecube trays and cover with olive oil. Or blend the leaves with olive oil and place in the icecube trays. Freeze, then remove the cubes into zip lock bags and keep in the freezer. Pop a cube into dishes as you require. Salads, soups, sauces, anything.
It is a good idea to blanch coriander leaves (cilantro) before freezing. Blanch, place into iced water, then dry. This helps retain its green colour.
Herbs in Oil and Salt
I love to do basil this way.
Remove the leaves from the basil and rinse them. Leave on a kitchen towel until dry. Put some sea or kosher salt into the bottom of a jar, and cover with a layer of basil leaves. Pour on a little olive oil to just cover. Continue with the salt, leaves and olive oil until the jar is full. Finish with some salt, then enough olive oil to cover everything, pressing the basil leaves down to make sure that they are covered. Store in the fridge. You could try this with other herbs too.
I have also made this without the salt, just olive oil, and it is equally as good.
Note that basil leaves are likely to go dark green, no matter how you store them. But the flavour is there, do not be afraid to use them.
Hope that helps. Please feel free to browse our How To series for many more handy hints in The Kitchen.