Just like vegetables and fruits, herbs deliver their best flavor and aroma when you rush them straight from the garden to the kitchen. But that’s not always possible, especially when Old Man Winter is bearing down and you need to harvest your treasures pronto.
How long fresh herbs retain their full flavor (or at least most of it) varies. Most of them will last for up to two weeks in your refrigerator’s crisper drawers. Just rinse the herbs well, wrap them loosely in paper towels (one type of herb per bundle), and put them into individual ziplock plastic bags. One notable exception is basil, which goes belly-up almost immediately in the refrigerator. But it will stay fresh for up to a week if you put it into a glass of water, set it in a sunny window, and keep the container filled to the brim with H2O.
To prolong the flavor and usefulness of your herbs even longer, consider freezing them. It’s a more effective method than drying for many culinary herbs. In particular, basil, chives, mint, and parsley retain little flavor when they’re dried. Of course, frozen herbs don’t keep their natural good looks, but they do retain a lot more of their fresh-from-the-garden taste. There are several quick and easy freezing methods, and no matter which one you use, the advantage of freezing your herbs is that you simply pull out whatever quantity your recipe calls for, and put the rest back in the freezer. Use any of these methods:
1. Wrap bunches of herb sprigs (one kind per bunch) in aluminum foil, and pop them in the freezer.
2. Coarsely chop fresh herbs, put them in plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, and freeze.
3. Puree chopped herbs with water, butter, or olive oil. (The exact amount is your call.) Then pour the mixture into ice cube trays. When the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the trays and store them in ziplock plastic freezer bags or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.