Fresh herbs are essential for many recipes, but we rarely use an entire bunch at once. Can these containers keep leftover herbs fresh longer?
Published Aug. 1, 2018. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 13: Taste of Summer
Herb keepers are containers designed to extend the life span of herbs, allowing you to use an entire bunch instead of finding it later, slimy and wilted. Resembling covered vases, they hold the herb stems in water while keeping the stalks and leaves neatly contained and protected. We previously evaluated herb keepers and named the Norpro Herb Keeper our winner, but with new models on the market, we decided to retest. We selected five models, priced from $14.86 to $30.47, and tested each one with cilantro (a tender herb) and thyme (a hardy herb). We stored two of every model in the refrigerator—one on a shelf and one in the door—each holding one bunch of cilantro and one of thyme. Curious if the herb keepers would work outside the refrigerator, we also used them on the counter with basil, a tender herb that is typically stored at room temperature.
We loaded each herb keeper according to its instructions, adding enough water to cover the bottoms of the stems without going over the maximum water fill line. For comparison, we also stored one bunch each of basil, cilantro, and thyme according to the test kitchen's preferred methods: We placed basil cuttings in a glass Mason jar with enough water to cover the stems and left the jar on the counter, and we wrapped bunches of cilantro and thyme cuttings in dampened paper towels and stored each separately in a zipper-lock bag. We checked the herbs daily, looking for any signs of spoilage. We diligently removed any wilted or dead leaves and changed the water whenever it started to look discolored. For the herbs stored in zipper-lock bags, we changed the paper towels once during testing, as the towels had ripped. Finally, we noted when there were no longer enough usable herbs—a couple of leaves of basil; just a few stalks of cilantro and thyme—in a given bunch.
Within 15 days, all the basil stored in keepers on the counter had turned brown, wilted, or developed a fuzzy coating. By comparison, after 50 days of careful pruning and water-changing, there were still a few usable green leaves in the Mason jar, also stored on the counter. Cilantro and thyme stayed fresh in the refrigerated herb keepers for at least 46 days. The test kitchen method also turned in impressive numbers, maintaining these two herbs for 40 and 46 days, respectively.
When it came to evaluating the herb keepers that held the refrigerated herbs, our winner slightly outperformed the competition. Its design may have contributed to this success, as it was the only model with vents; there are L-shaped openings in each corner of the lid. Our science editor explained that these vents may be advant...
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