Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cheap-O Kitchen: the Herb Keeper

Buy a bag of cilantro/basil/parsley and stick it in the crisper. By the end of the week, the stuff is not crisp; it's brown and maybe growing mold. That's not a good return on your $2.19 investment. The solution: the Herb Keeper. Now, you can opt for fresh herbs over dried more often.

What's it for? You put your weed in it! Okay, I got that comment out of my system. Seriously, it's as simple as putting fresh cut flowers in water and changing the water every so often (plus the refrigeration extends the herbs' freshness). You're really just keeping the stems submerged. There's even a little bottom area that unscrews so you can leave the herbs undisturbed while you replace the water. I've had parsley that was usable for as long as three or four weeks. And, it's also great for asparagus. I've picked up a couple of these over the years at Marshalls ($7).

Okay, I'm having trouble singing the priases of the Herb Keeper effectively, so I'm just going to hand over the reins to the professionals. I often calibrate my preferences against Cooks Illustrated or Consumer Reports. In this case, I'm just going to go ahead and paste in the official word from the master kitchen experimenters themselves (cuz it would cost you to subscribe to their site yourself). They're usually pretty down on gimmicky gadgets, but this one is simple enough to get approval.
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Herb Keeper
Written: 12/2004 in Cooks Illustrated

We tested the Herb Keeper against our preferred herb storage method: wrapping the herb in a damp paper towel and refrigerating it in a plastic bag to see which was better.

Because stores sell fresh herbs in larger bundles than called for in most recipes, we are always interested in finding new ways to maximize storage time. The Herb Keeper is an acrylic canister that holds long-stemmed herbs upright in water. It has a rubber lid and a removable bottom segment that can be unscrewed to refill with fresh water every three to four days. The jar fits inside refrigerator door shelves, making it easy to store.

Using parsley, we tested the Herb Keeper against our preferred herb storage method: wrapping the herb in a damp paper towel and refrigerating it in a plastic bag. After 10 days, the parsley kept in the bag was noticeably more wilted than the parsley in the Herb Keeper. It's important not to crowd the herbs in the keeper; some of the outer leaves were damaged. We also tested basil and found that the leaves in the Herb Keeper were noticeably fresher than the bagged basil even after one day. They survived another four days in excellent condition.

We think the Herb Keeper is an excellent option for storing leftover herbs, especially if you need to conserve refrigerator space. It can be bought for $12.99 at www.chefscatalog.com, item #20351.

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Don't put it in the dishwasher, cuz ours developed cracks from the high temperatures. But, if you do, you can probably find a new one in the clearance section of your favorite discount store.

Other Cheap-O Kitchen installments: immersion blender and mandolins slicers.

6 comments:

  1. That sounds really nifty...too bad I didn't think of that!

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  2. we came across "green bags". they are that whole infomercial thing that cost like 12.00 for 20. probably the best thing i have ever purchased.(in regards to lengthening the produce without that paper towel thing) we use them for everything. last year, during the csa, i was so fortunate to have them because we could keep our herbs amd vegetable in these bad boys for up to 14 days (sometimes longer if we werent able to chow down immediately) they also go in the dishwasher to be reused. http://www.greenbagsdirect.com/

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  3. Uh, some places don't spray the peewaddley out of their paresly, etc. If it's dry, it keeps a lot longer.

    Elwood's tends to spray and their parsely costs a bundle, too.

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  4. Have you checked out the dried herb shelf at Fresh Market? Bags of herbs and spices with most running between a buck and a buck fifty. I suddenly feel foolish for shelling out 5 bucks for a jar at Whole Foods after my last trip to C'ville.

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  5. I usually just trim the stems, drop them into a tall glass, and add a little cold water.

    They sit happily on the counter through the week as long as I keep the water fresh.

    If you're keeping fresh herbs around longer than that, you're not cooking enough. :)

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  6. Lots of good advice here. Not sure where I would get this "tall glass" gadget. Who makes it? Seriously, this recommendation is short of cooking advice, but IMHO using fresh herbs makes a world of difference (as does saving money).

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