Healthy Eating Tips

This Simple Chef Trick Will Prevent Fresh Herbs From Wilting Like a Ticking Time Bomb

Photo: Stocksy/ Cameron Whitman
Why does it feel like green leafy herbs always turn into a wilted, droopy mess in the blink of an eye? Whether you have a green thumb or not, keeping herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley fresh can often feel like a nearly impossible task.

But, like my mom loves to say, every problem has a solution. To put this lifelong dilemma to rest once and for all, we’ve determined the most effective way to keep herbs fresh, and this clever solution may actually surprise you. No, it doesn’t involve wrapping them in paper towels and stashing them in the fridge: Instead, an herb bouquet is all you need. Just as you would with a bouquet of fresh roses, correctly prepping and storing herbs can help them live their best lives for weeks on end. We really wish we had known this sooner.

How to keep herbs from wilting

1. Turn them into a bouquet

Before you toss your fresh herbs in the fridge and forget about them, take this one easy step to prevent them from becoming a sad mushy pile of greens. Aside from the bonus points of adding another plant baby to your indoor jungle, turning herbs into a beautiful bouquet will help guarantee they don’t droop over in seconds. Similar to fresh-cut flowers, leafy herbs can maintain their vibrancy and structure for weeks if stored in a few inches of water.

To make an herb bouquet, fill a small jar with enough water to reach just below the lowest leaves. Gather up your assortment of herbs like mint, cilantro, and parsley in a bouquet, and submerge them in the container. This simple trick will help keep your plants hydrated and standing tall until you’re ready to use them. And to really nail this technique, ensure that no leaves are touching the waterline, as this can expedite spoilage.

@clairefromwhere Reply to @imyourmomella ♬ original sound - Claire

In this TikTok video by @clairefromwhere, Claire explains that the dill she bought a few days prior quickly began to wilt and lose its shape as it sat in the refrigerator. To combat the issue, she creates a small bouquet with the plant and submerges it in a cup of water. To her surprise, the dill revived overnight and looked good as new.

2. Change the water frequently

Changing the water in the jar frequently will help prevent spoilage and replenish your herbs' source of hydration. As soon as the water becomes discolored, simply swap it out with fresh filtered water. Also, if the bottom leaves of your bouquet are touching the liquid, remove them or prop them up higher to prevent them from prematurely rotting.

3. Stop storing basil in the fridge

When stashing away the items from your recent grocery delivery, resist the temptation to toss your leafy herbs in the crisper drawer in the same flimsy plastic baggie it came in. Although we’ve been doing it for as long as we can remember, storing delicate leafy herbs like basil in the fridge, where they get exposed to harsh cooling fans, can be the first step in the quick demise of this tender plant.

Instead, storing your basil bouquet in a room-temperature environment (such as your countertop) uncovered in the jar is ideal. To further prevent your herbs from wilting, place the jar away from direct sunlight and hot spots in the kitchen, like near the stove or oven, which can evaporate the water and damage the leaves.

Cyril Kabaoglu, lead chef-instructor of Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, adds that although storing fresh herbs wrapped in a damp paper towel can work for shorter periods, delicate basil leaves won’t bruise as easily in a bouquet setup. “The leaves won’t be as compressed and susceptible to turning dark,” he says. However, if you’re working with more durable herbs like rosemary, feel free to apply the bouquet-in-a-jar method and cover them loosely with a resealable bag before placing them in the fridge. This will help prevent them from drying out and becoming wilted for upwards of two weeks.

4. Revive already wilted herbs using an ice bath

So, did you accidentally forget to make the bouquet *before* they became sad and droopy? No worries. If the herb hasn’t spoiled and simply lacks a bit of hydration, you can bring back some life to them with a quick ice water bath. To do so, combine cool water with ice cubes in a large bowl. Then, remove any bruised or damaged leaves from the bunch, and submerge the salvageable ones in the chilled water. Soak for a few minutes, drain, and dry thoroughly. The result: perky, green herbs ready to use or turn into a bouquet for a prolonged lifespan.

Although this trick works well for most herbs, Kabaoglu advises against using an ice bath to revive basil. “Once basil has wilted, it’ll turn dark, and there’s really no way of reversing it,” he says. The best way is to store basil (and any other herb) correctly from the get-go.

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