Fresh herbs: How to use them and preserve them
Having fresh herbs to cook with means being able to add a touch of flavour and aesthetics to any dish. Wondering how to take full advantage of these fragile yet flavourful herbs? And how to properly store them? Read on to find out!
Chopped herbs in containers
Extremely practical, chopped herbs sold in plastic containers are a great ally in the kitchen. Are you wondering what to do with the leftovers? There are several ways of preserving your fresh herbs, but know that they don’t keep for much longer than 7 or 8 days in the fridge.
- The first solution is to remove them from their plastic container, place the stems in a glass filled with 2-3 cm of water, and store them in the fridge. If you change the water daily, you should be able to stretch them 2, maybe even 3, weeks.
- The second option is to remove them from their plastic container, rinse them thoroughly, wrap them in a damp paper towel, and store them in the fridge. It’s important to keep the paper towel humid at all times.
- Another solution is to rinse your herbs under water and store them in a Ziploc bag. Make sure to remove all the air from the bag so that it sticks to the herbs and prevents them from browning.
- Potted herbs can be easily grown on your balcony.
- Some perennial varieties, such as tarragon, rosemary, thyme, etc., grow year-round, while others, like basil, need to be purchased every year.
- Fresh herbs require light (between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight each day) and regular watering. Herbs can spend their entire life in a pot on a windowsill . . . and they make a pretty addition to any décor!
- To help your herbs stay fresher, longer, make sure you pinch them (prune the young shoots) and remove any flowering buds, which are especially common on basil.
- Speaking of basil, make sure to give your basil plants ample water; they need frequent watering during the dryer months, otherwise they’ll just end up flowering.
- When should you water your herbs? During the summer, it’s preferable to water them at night, when the risk of evaporation is lower. In the spring and fall, opt for a morning watering routine.
2 ways to keep your herbs fresher, longer:
- Frozen: Herbs keep much longer in the freezer. Simply chop and freeze them in ice-cube trays. To prevent basil from browning, combine it with olive oil and then freeze.
- Dried: Make a bouquet of herbs and place it in a paper bag for 4 to 6 weeks. You can also make several bouquets and dry them upside-down in a dark room. Or, preheat your oven to 180°F, and dry out your bouquets with the oven door slightly ajar for 4 hours. Then, enjoy your herbs all year long!
Common mistakes when caring for herbs
When it comes to potted herbs, moderation is key—they don’t like too much afternoon sun or water! And watering guidelines vary depending on whether your plants are indoors or outdoors. Outdoor plants need to be watered more than once a week, because the sun and wind dry them out faster. And make sure your soil is combined with a bit of compost. You can also add fertilizer, but no more than 2 or 3 times during the warmer months.
So you just bought a nice bouquet of herbs and you’re wondering what to do with it?
- Several dishes: You can prepare a variety of meals to freeze, just make sure they all call for the same herb (tarragon chicken, tarragon-marinated vegetables, tarragon sauce, etc.).
- Sauces: A tasty green sauce made with tarragon, basil, or dill would pair perfectly with white meat or fish.
- Marinades: Lemon and basil, lemon and oregano, sage, soy, and mustard, or parsley, garlic, thyme, and paprika . . . combined with oil, these flavour combos make great marinades for your grilled meat and skewers.
- Vinaigrettes: Herbs add loads of flavour to dressings and vinaigrettes! The secret? Chop them up finely . . . and don’t forget that mint makes a great addition to the mix!
A few perfect pairings!
Basil: With tomatoes, in pasta, on chicken, ice cream, or in a gaspacho
Chives: In a vinaigrette, sauce, or salad
Parsley: In tabbouleh salad or marinades
Sage: On gnocchis or gnudis
Dill: In a yogurt vinaigrette on fish or with cucumbers
So now that you know how to preserve your fresh herbs and add a touch of flavour to all your meals, drop by your IGA store and stock up today. We have a wide variety to choose from: Mint, basil, chives, tarragon, and so much more!
3 delicious recipes
Oven-baked tarragon fries and minty fresh fruit salad are ideal summer dishes, and this strawberry basil jam makes the perfect gift!