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Garden Lifestyle

How to Keep Cilantro Fresh

I hated wasting cilantro that had turned mushy, so I experimented with three different ways to keep this herb garden fresh for weeks. Here’s what I found works best.

  • Experiment 1 tested how long cilantro would stay fresh when placed in water and left on the counter.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Experiment 2 tested how long cilantro would stay fresh when placed in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Experiment 3 tested how long cilantro would stay fresh when placed in water, covered, and refrigerated.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

I have a love-hate relationship with cilantro.

I love to use it in my cooking, but I hate for it to go to waste. That’s what spurred me to find the best way to keep cilantro garden fresh for several weeks.

The broad lower leaves of the coriander plant are known as “cilantro.” Cilantro is typically sold in bundles of fresh leaves and stems or grown in the garden. I use cilantro in all kinds of recipes from Mexican cuisine to Southwestern recipes. It’s also a main ingredient in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking, too.

The problem I’ve always had with this slightly pungent herb is the fresh leaves don’t stay fresh for long and can turn mushy when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Even though cilantro is inexpensive to buy at the grocery store and easy to grow in the garden, I was tired of having to toss it on the compost pile instead of on top of a salad.

I decided to conduct a simple experiment to see if I could find the best way to keep cilantro fresh for more than a week or two. I bought one bunch of cilantro and divided it into three smaller bundles.

Experiment 1: The first bundle of cilantro was placed in a small jar of water and left on the counter, similar to the way I keep sprigs of basil fresh.

Experiment 2: The second bundle was placed in a small jar of water, covered with a plastic sandwich bag and placed in the refrigerator.

Experiment 3: The third bundle was trimmed and placed in a plastic container with an airtight lid.

Then I waited to see which bunch of cilantro would stay the freshest for the longest amount of time. I checked on each of the containers every few days and made sure there was plenty of water in the two jars.

Here’s what I discovered:

The cilantro in the jar of water on the counter (Experiment 1) was the first to go. It lasted just over 7 days. This is a fewer number of days than when stored in a plastic bag in the fridge.

The cilantro in the plastic container (Experiment 3) lasted about 10 days longer than Experiment 1. The leaves didn’t get mushy, but they did start to turn an unappetizing color.

Experiment 2 was the clear winner. The cilantro stems placed in water, covered and refrigerated remained fresh for just over four weeks.

Do you have a special method for keeping cilantro or other herbs fresh in your kitchen? Please share your tips here.

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