Andrea Mathis, RDN, an Alabama-based dietitian says that keeping fresh herbs around is the best part of healthy cooking. "When preparing savory dishes, desserts, or even cocktails, herbs make these dishes come alive," says Mathis. "My favorites are rosemary, basil, mint, thyme and dill. Not only do they make food look delicious, they also add the perfect flavoring and aroma that gives food that extra flair!"
How to keep herbs fresh longer in the refrigerator
Mathis relies on a vacuum sealer to keep fresh herbs. "The sealer keeps all air out and helps herbs maintain their freshness," she says. "After sealing, I place them in the refrigerator." Using a sealer, like Nesco White Food Vacuum Sealer ($45), allows you to remove air from storage bags, which eliminates freezer burn, spoilage, and waste. The vacuum method keeps your herbs fresh for up to a year.
If you aren't ready to invest in a vacuum sealer, you can preserve your herbs by first cutting a half inch off the bottom, and then place the stems in a glass with cold water. Cover the herbs loosely with a plastic sandwich bag and store them in the fridge. This method extends the shelf life of your herbs by at least two weeks (and likely longer). Just be sure to change or refill the water as needed.
How to keep herbs fresh in the freezer
Reach for your ice cube tray. "Place the herbs in each compartment of the ice tray, add water, and freeze until solid," she says. "You can add these herb-infused ice cubes to your favorite cup of tea, cocktail and more!" She says she does this all the time.
For cooking, you can instead freeze the herbs in olive oil. "You can use them for sautéing veggies, or even add them to stews and soups," she says. Frozen herbs stay good in the freezer for about three months.
Health benefits of cooking with fresh herbs
As leafy greens, herbs are packed with nutrients. "There are several herbs that have a significant amount of vitamins A, C, and K," says Mathis. Vitamin A supports eye and bone health, vitamin C is great for immunity, and vitamin K aids in bone health and wound healing. Vitamins A and C are also powerful antioxidants. "Some herbs, such as parsley, mint, and oregano, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects," she adds.
And don't worry—this doesn't mean you need to start heating fistfuls of herbs. "Usually the amount found in the recipes will provide you with some of the health benefits," says Mathis.
No matter how long you keep your herbs fresh, they're worthless unless you remember to use them! Incorporate fresh herbs into different dishes to get the most out of your purchase.
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