Keep Herbs Fresh and Safe

By Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN
Keep Herbs Fresh and Safe

LeszekCzerwonka/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Whether it's rosemary, basil, tarragon or cilantro, fresh and dried herbs are one of the quickest, easiest ways to punch up the flavor of foods. Do you know how to store them for optimal safety and taste?

Here's how to keep your herbs fresh, safe and tasting their very best.

  • Be picky. When shopping for fresh herbs, choose those that are completely clean and free of soil, which may harbor pathogens that can lead to food poisoning. At home, cut off and discard any bruised stems or leaves.
  • Keep them cold. Just like other perishable foods, refrigerate fresh herbs as soon as you get home from the store.
  • Store them right. Most herbs will keep unwashed in a plastic bag for up to five days in your refrigerator. However, those with leaves that brown or wilt easily such as basil or cilantro will fare better stored, stems down, in a glass of water with a plastic bag placed loosely over the leaves.
  • Cleanliness is key. Before using fresh herbs, wash your hands well in warm, soapy water. Then, make sure your herbs are clean by washing them under cold, running water and drying them carefully with a clean paper towel. When cutting or chopping, use a separate cutting board designated only for fruits and vegetables to ensure that they don't become contaminated with bacteria from raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Don't forget dried herbs. These can be a tasty alternative to fresh, but they also require proper care. Moving herbs to the pantry or to a closed cabinet can protect them. Stored there in an airtight container, they'll stay fresh for one to two years.

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