Fresh Herbs, Storage & Handling

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Fresh herbs, storage, and handling is not a recipe, it is more of an estimated guideline on how to store and use fresh vs dried herbs. Flavor created with fresh or dried herbs and mindful cooking methods can heal and create pleasures. In other words, it is worth familiarizing yourself with fresh herbs, the storage, the handling, and more importantly, learning how to use herbs. During the summer months, I grow herbs in my backyard, that’s all I use, and I pick my herbs straight from the plant, so I really don’t have a storage problem. That time of the year I use mostly fresh herbs however, as we all know too well fresh herbs are delicate and can wilt quickly, so proper handling and storage are of importance.

Remember, herbs are all about building layers of flavors!

Fresh or dried Herbs can add a unique flavor to any dish, and what is equally important, using herbs can drastically reduce the amount of sodium used in most dishes. Fresh herbs depending on the time of the year may not be the choice in your kitchen.  We all love to use fresh herbs however in the winter time fresh herbs can be expensive to use.

Washing fresh herbs with a DYI vegetable wash

I wash all my vegetables and fresh herbs in a homemade  DIY vegetable wash, to remove chemicals and pesticides. which is very simple to do. Baking soda is not a disinfectant but it is very effective in cleaning off pesticides. Fill your kitchen sink about 2/3 full with cold water, add 4 tablespoons of baking soda to the water, and swish it around to distribute. For smaller quantities, like fresh herbs add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to every 2 cups of cold water. Soak for 15 minutes, time will help the baking soda do its job and the longer you soak the more effective is the wash. Wash thoroughly and rinse well with cold water. For firmer vegetables and fruits, such as melons, apples, carrots, or potatoes, I use a soft-bristle vegetable brush to scrub the surface. Let it dry thoroughly before prepping or eating. I’m not saying that soaking and washing herbs or vegetables with a baking soda water solution will remove all pesticides, however, it still removes some of the common types.

Converting Dry Herbs in Recipes to Fresh Herbs

With the exception of the summer months, we all use mostly dried herbs. Use the following standard conversion formula when using fresh herbs in place of dried. The proper conversion ratio is 3:1, or three times more fresh than dried. If your recipe calls for 1 tbsp dried herb, plan to use 3 tbsp of the fresh herb. Generally, you use more fresh herbs because dried herbs have a more robust flavor, as their oils are more concentrated.

Keep in mind that there are a few exceptions to the general conversion rule for replacing dried herbs with fresh ones. Basil, for instance, which has a powerful flavor, is usually best used in a 2:1 ratio. In other words, use twice as much fresh as you would use dried herbs.

Another exception is freeze-dried herbs. There is no conversion rate for freeze-dried herbs since they readily re-hydrate when used in cooking. In this case, use the same amount of freeze-dried herbs as you would fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are best added at the end of cooking or after cooking. Dried herbs, on the other hand, benefit from some cooking, and should be added earlier to better develop their flavor.

Estimated conversion chart
Amount of fresh herbs – equivalent to dry herbs

Basil = 2 tsp finely chopped = 1 tsp dried basil
Bay leaves = 1 fresh bay leaf = 2 dried bay leaves
Chervil = 1 tbsp fresh chervil = 1 tbsp chervil
Chives = 1 tbsp finely chopped chives = 1 tsp freeze dried chives
Cilantro = 3 tsp fresh cilantro = 1 tsp dried cilantro
Dill = 3 tbsp fresh dill = 1 tsp dried dill
Garlic = 1 glove = 1/8 tsp garlic powder
Ginger root = 1 tsp grated ginger = 1/4 tsp dry ground ginger
Marjoram = 3 tsp marjoram = 1 tsp dried marjoram
Onion =  1 medium onion  = 1 tsp  onion powder
Oregano = 1 tbsp fresh oregano = 1 tsp dried oregano
Parsely = 2 tbsp copped parsley = 1 tsp dried parsley
Rosemary = 1 small – medium sprig = 1 tsp dried pasrley
Sage = 7 leaves (2 tsp minced) = 1 tsp dried sage
Tarragon = 3 tsp fresh tarragon = 1 tsp dried tarragon
Thyme = 1 small-medium sprig = 3/4 tsp ground thyme

Fresh herb blend

My culinary education is rooted in German food, with strong influences from classical French Cuisine, Nouvelle Cuisine, and the experience and education of cooking on four continents. I was working and cooked with Chef Cary Neff for many years as his R&D Chef, he was the Chef that inspired me to cook mindful and look at food differently. Chef Neff revolutionized healthy cooking when he introduced the internationally acclaimed, “Conscious Cuisine” which is based on the premise that eating healthy does not have to be boring. His book Conscious Cuisine is the BEST for anyone wanting to eat mindfully and still have good-tasting food, something you would expect to see in an amazing restaurant

One of Chef Neff’s fresh herb mixes consists of :

  • Italian Parsley, Fresh, Chopped.     1/4 cup
  • Basil, Fresh, Chiffonade Cut            1/4 cup
  • Oregano Bunch, Fresh, Chopped    1/4 cup
  • Cilantro, Fresh, Chopped                  1/4 cup
  • Lemon Peel, Grated Fine                  3 tbsp

A combination of chopped fresh herbs that work well for the seasoning of vegetables, poultry, beef, etc
Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours

Fresh Herbs, Storage & Handling

Shelf life of fresh herbs.
When following the proper storage and handling procedures the expected shelf-life is three weeks at 0°C (32°F) and two weeks at 5°C (41°F). The best advice I can give you is to purchase in small quantities to maintain top quality.  I use one-quart deli containers for storage and keep them covered with a lid in my refrigerator. 

Long-stemmed herbs 
Parsley, cilantro, chervil, and basil should be trimmed at the bottom of the stem and placed with water in one-quart deli containers, cover with a lid and make sure to change the water every other day.

Bushy herbs
Thyme, oregano, tarragon, sage, and rosemary should be placed in between two pieces of damp food-safe paper towel, then placed in an airtight bag and labeled. 

Chopping herbs
When chopping herbs, make sure you use just the leaves. Remove all of the stems, and reserve them to make a bouquet to add aromatics to soups, stocks, and sauces as shown above right. (Don’t waste your stems, they can be used for stocks and can be frozen as well if not needed immediately!) Cilantro stems are the only stems I chop and use.  Certain delicate herbs, such as parsley, basil, and chives, lose many of their aromatic qualities when dried. Herbs that are going to be used in culinary recipes can be successfully frozen IQF for later use. Simply place the chopped herbs in an ice cube tray, add water and freeze. Place the ice cubes in zip lock bag, seal and use as needed.

Whole leaf herbs
can be frozen IQF, just wash and dry the herbs, spread the individual leaves on a small tray or cookie sheet, cover, and place the tray of leaves into the freezer. Once frozen, remove the frozen herbs from the tray, place them in an airtight container, and store them in the freezer.

 

 

 

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