By Jessica, Pure Matters
For a long time, I had a Serious Herb Problem. I’d buy some cilantro for a Mexican food night, and then not eat anything that required cilantro for a few days, during which time the herbs would wilt and become unusable. The same went for basil, parsley, and all of the other herbs that seemed like a great idea for one dish, but not so much for the rest of the week’s meals. It didn’t bug me too much from a financial standpoint -- herbs are cheap, after all, especially when they’re in season -- but as someone who hates to waste food, it hurt to throw out bunches of herbs every week. So I started experimenting.
Herbs are so plentiful right now, and they add so much to a dish. A bunch of fresh cilantro infuses a meal with more vibrancy and flavor than ground coriander ever could. And the good news is, there are tons of ways to keep them from the fate of the kitchen garbage can or compost bin! Try one of these herb-saving tricks next time you’re left with more than you can handle. Got your own tips? Share them in the comments. We love tips.
When most of us think pesto, we think basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil. And while that is certainly a delicious recipe, it’s not the only one. In fact, the possibilities are endless! Use any combination of leftover herbs and/or leafy greens for a delicious, unique flavor. When I have leftover cilantro and mint, I like to make an Indian-inspired pesto with cumin seed, garlic, ginger, hot peppers and onions. I also love making leftover kale into a pesto with a handful of assorted fresh herbs and toasted pumpkin seeds. See what I mean by endless possibilities?
It never occurred to me to start freezing herbs until I started cooking a lot of Indian and Sri Lankan food and discovered fresh curry leaves, which are hard to find and expensive. No way was I going to waste those, so I put them in a freezer bag and voila! Now I always have curry leaves when I needed them. When freezing herbs, it’s important to know that while they’ll keep their flavor, they will lose some of their green color, so you won’t want to use frozen herbs as a garnish or to make a dish look pretty.
If your store-bought herbs still have the roots intact, you can replant them. And even if they don’t have the roots intact, you might still be in luck. Trim the ends of cut roots and try storing them in a jar of water for a few days. They might just grow some new roots, and can then be transferred to potting soil. And once you’re growing your own fresh herbs, you won’t ever have to worry about wasting them!
If you have a lot of leftover herbs, think about using them to punch up the flavors of oils. Steep fresh or dried herbs in cooking oil to infuse your food with a surprising depth of flavor. Some ideas: make basil oil and use it in lemon vinaigrette, or brush chicken breasts with rosemary oil before cooking. You can even infuse vodka or other spirits with herbs. Basil gin and tonic? Bloody Mary with dill oil? Or, mix butter with fresh herbs and use the herb butter when cooking vegetables, or even just to spread on toast.
If all else fails, you can easily dry your fresh herbs, and store them in plastic bags or jars. You can even dry combinations of herbs together, like rosemary and thyme, or basil and oregano, for interesting flavor combinations later. Herbs you dry in your own kitchen will taste so much better than the stuff that’s been sitting on the grocery store shelves, believe me.