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Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Storing and Purchasing Fresh Produce

Culinary Institute of America


The leaves of aromatic plants, herbs are used primarily to add flavor to foods. They are available fresh and dried, although sturdier herbs like thyme, bay leaf, and rosemary dry more successfully than others.

Aroma is a good indicator of quality in fresh and dried herbs. Test for smell by rubbing or crumbling leaves between the fingers, then smelling. A weak or stale aroma indicates old, less-potent herbs. Fresh herbs should have good color, fresh-looking leaves and stems, and no wilt or pest damage.

Fresh herbs should be stored loosely wrapped in damp paper or cloth. If desired, they can then be placed in plastic bags to help retain freshness, then stored at 35° to 45°F/2° to 7°C. Leafy herbs like watercress, basil, and parsley can be held by trimming the stems and placing the bunch in a jar of water. Wrap damp toweling around the leaves or cover with a plastic bag. Fresh herbs should be cut as close to serving time as possible and added to a dish toward the end of the cooking time. For uncooked preparations, fresh herbs should be added well in advance of serving so their flavors can blend with the other elements. Fresh herbs also add flavor to salads; parsley, basil, and sorrel can be used to good effect.

Fresh herbs are rarely eaten in large enough quantity for their nutrients to make a significant contribution to meeting daily or weekly recommendations. However, most are high in vitamin C, beta carotene, and iron.

Dried herbs should be stored away from light and heat. They can be added early in the cooking process.

Reprinted by permission from The Culinary Institute of America, “Techniques of Healthy Cooking” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008).