The Paper Towel Trick That Makes Hardy Herbs Last Longer

Fresh, aromatic herbs are always a welcome addition to meals. That's why, every grocery shopping visit should end with you picking some up, but it can be difficult to use up an entire bunch before it goes bad. We've all been there; maybe you bought a bunch of herbs for that one recipe, only to see them wilt and lose their vibrancy in a matter of days. Herbs infuse our food with wonderful flavors so throwing them away just doesn't feel right — what a waste! But one simple trick can make your herbs last longer — all you need is a paper towel, some water, and an airtight container!

Herbs need a bit of moisture to stay fresh, too much can lead to mold and decay. Damp paper towels help maintain the right level of humidity in your storage container. They'll release water into the air in your storage container to help keep your herbs fresh, but they're also absorbent enough to soak up any excess moisture that could develop. Their breathability won't prevent air from circulating through the container. That's it! No fancy equipment, no tedious process — paper towels serve as an economical and easily available storage tool!

How to store herbs with paper towels

First, clean your herbs and let them dry, then spread them on a damp paper towel in a single layer without overcrowding. Roll up the herbs in the paper towel, making sure they are snug but not too tight. You want to leave them with some room to breathe. Next, place the rolled-up paper in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container to lock in the moisture and prevent oxygen exposure, which will lead to your herbs drying out and turning brown. It also keeps your herbs from absorbing any strong odors in the fridge. After sealing the container/bag tight, pop it in the refrigerator.

It's really simple, though you'll want to check on your herbs every few days to see if the paper towel has dried out. If it has, spray it with some water to moisten it. This method works well for hardier herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano, and can keep them fresh for about 2–4 weeks, according to Martha Stewart

Pro tips for maximum freshness

In addition to this paper towel trick, there are a number of other ways to maximize your herbs' freshness. Whenever you buy herbs, look for the ones that look fresh and smell fresh. If you spot any yellow or brown or wilted parts, leave the bunch and look for another. Once you've picked a bunch that you are sure about using, try to get those herbs home quickly and use them as soon as possible. Don't worry, you can always get more if a particular recipe demands a different variety or another bunch. It may cost you another small trip back to the market, but picking up quality herbs just a day or two before you use them will help you save big if you don't end up wasting what you don't use. 

Once home, you should rinse the fresh herbs under cold running water and gently remove any dirt, but make sure they are thoroughly dry before storing them. Too much moisture can speed up the process of their decay. For most herbs (besides the most delicate ones), the refrigerator is an ideal storage location, but be careful not to place your herbs in a cold spot (like the top shelf) which can cause herbs to freeze. After storing your herbs, keep an eye on them, and remove any wilted or brown leaves to prevent them from affecting the rest of the bunch. Storing fresh herbs with paper towels is a simple kitchen hack that can save you money, reduce food waste, and help your herbs live longer.

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