Herbs are versatile restaurant essentials. When used properly, they can transform any dish into a quality experience. Herbs are also used to add life to what may sometimes be common recipes. Because preparation is key in many restaurants, many ingredients are purchased in bulk to save up on time and money. This arrangement can often lead to improper storage, especially when it comes to fresh herbs, and eventual rotting before they can be used.
Some common factors that spoil herbs are too much exposure to either moisture, sunlight, temperature or oxygen. Finding proper balance in exposing your herbs to these different elements will help avoid decay. To make sure that herbs stay fresh and ready for use, here are key tips and tricks to keep in mind.
Familiarize yourself with the herbs
Determining what type of herb you’re working with is essential in storing it safely and successfully. Herbs are usually categorized in two: soft and hard. Soft herbs are leafy and supple while the stems are tender and flexible. Examples include parsley, cilantro, mint and basil. Hard herbs are those with firmer leaves and wood-like stems such as rosemary, thyme and oregano. Knowing the distinctions between the two will help in determining the storing method to get that perfect balance of light and oxygen exposure, temperature and moisture level.
Wash with cold water and dry before storing
Aside from ensuring that the herbs are free from grime and dirt (especially those that come straight from the farm), washing herbs will guarantee that decay-causing bacteria is eliminated early on.
Some common factors that spoil herbs are too much exposure to either moisture, sunlight, temperature or oxygen. Finding proper balance in exposing your herbs to these different elements will help avoid decay
Always use cold water when washing herbs. You can choose to rinse them under running water since it’s faster, but for a deeper clean, soak herbs in a deep bowl of cold water until the dirt settles to the bottom. From there, you can gather the herbs by hand to prevent the dirt from washing over the herbs again when you tip the bowl over. Repeat this process until the herbs are free of dirt.
Once clean, spread the herbs out on a clean towel to dry. You can also use a salad spinner for a faster drying process. Make sure not to leave them out for too long because it can wilt or completely dry out.
Avoid single-use plastic storage
If many businesses’ attitudes toward food waste is anything to go by, eliminating single-use plastic is a crucial aspect of your storing strategy. Plastic packaging can usually leech off chemicals into your herbs, making them taste or go bad quicker. Invest in glass bottles and jars to properly house delicate herbs. Transparent glass containers will help herbs that need some sun exposure while also providing an airtight environment that will slow down wilting.
Treat soft herbs like bouquets
Soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, basil and mint require upkeep that is similar to flowers. Fill your jar or glass with cool water, trim the ends of stems at an angle and place the bunch inside. Don’t forget to change the water every couple of days or when you start to see discoloration to keep them fresh and clean.
Basil is usually kept uncovered at room temperature because too much cold will turn its leaves black, but for other herbs, make sure to store them in the refrigerator, loosely covered by a lid to retain moisture in a refrigerator’s cool but dry environment and to keep too much oxygen from browning the leaves.
Invest in glass bottles and jars to properly house delicate herbs. Transparent glass containers will help herbs that need some sun exposure while also providing an airtight environment that will slow down wilting
Keep hard herbs crisp
Instead of sticking them in a glass of water, hard herbs only need to be kept slightly damp to keep them crisp. Wrap your bundles loosely in a moist paper towel, then place them in an airtight container and store in your refrigerator’s crisper. The towel will ensure that the herbs are moist enough not to dry out completely while the airtight container keeps oxygen out.
Use whole herbs only as needed
Whole herbs are a great deal in terms of money and flavor payoff, however, it’s critical that you don’t let that money go to waste by making sure that these bunches are stored correctly. Before storing whole herbs, make sure they are completely dry from previous washing. Storage containers have to be airtight and dark-colored to keep away unnecessary exposure to oxygen and sunlight. You can place these herbs in your refrigerator, not necessarily in the crisper, just as long as it is cool and dry. From there, only take these herbs out and grind or cut them as needed—this helps to retain the fresh and strong flavor with every use.
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