All About Fresh Herbs

Here are a few fresh herbs we use every day in our busy test kitchen.

Here are a few fresh herbs we use every day in our busy test kitchen.


BASIL: Because basil bruises easily when it’s chopped, we like to stack several leaves, roll them tightly, then slice the basil into thin strips (called chiffonade)—or simply shred or chop the leaves just before using. Use basil raw or add it at the end of cooking, since heat kills its flavor. Basil doesn’t keep for more than a few days. To prolong its life, store the bunch in a glass of water on your counter (like flowers) and change the water every day.


CILANTRO (CHINESE PARSLEY): Cilantro, the fresh leaves and stems of the coriander plant, is a love-it-or- loathe-it herb. It finds the love in Southeast Asian and Latin cuisines, where it’s a core ingredient. The flavorful stems can be chopped and used along with the leaves. Because cooking attenuates the flavor, we almost always use cilantro after we take dishes off the heat. Store it like basil with its stems in water, or wrapped in damp paper towels and placed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.


PARSLEY: In the test kitchen, we prefer flat-leaf (or Italian) parsley, which is more assertive than the curly-leaf parsley that once made its living as a ubiquitous restaurant garnish. Parsley stems have a lot of flavor; save them for stocks and soups. Store parsley with its stems in water or refrigerated in damp paper towels. Parsley freezes well (with some discoloration that doesn’t affect flavor) in an airtight container for up to four months.


THYME: Fresh thyme can withstand long cooking, but its flavor mellows, so we often add extra at the end of cooking to refresh the dish. To strip the tiny leaves from the stems, hold the stem and run your thumb and forefinger down the length, pinching the stem (and removing the leaves) as you go. If the stems are young and tender, chop them and use with the leaves. If they’re woody and tough, instead add whole sprigs to soups and stews. Store thyme dry in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

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