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Oct 10, 2011 04:54 AM

Fresh herbs sold in plastic containers - need to rinse before use?

I bought some fresh tarragon recently that came packaged in one of those little plastic containers. It looked clean, but there was no indication of whether it should be washed before use. I figured that meant I should rinse it, just to be safe. But it sure would be nice if this was unnecessary as it was hard to dry well and thus hard to handle and chop into fine pieces as the recipe called for.

Any suggestions or recommendations for the future?


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  1. The only herbs I even rinse are the ones from my yard, just because sometimes they have a little soil on them after a rain. Quick rinse, pat dry well, right before using.

    I almost never think to wash herbs from the markets, especially when packaged; the packaged herbs most likely have been greenhouse grown and don't need to be washed. If you do rinse them, only do so right before using. I would bet your tarragon came from a greenhouse environment.

    The herbs, especially parsley or cilantro, sold in bunches, can be sandy sometimes. I drop them into a bowl of cold water, swish them around briefly and remove; grit sinks to the bottom of the bowl.

    1. Do/Would I? No. But, I may recommend it. Produce in containers have been rinsed thoroughly, but there's always a very small chance that it could be contaminated (But, we're talking about a small fraction of 1%). If the food was being made for someone at risk (child, elderly and immune-compromised), I wouldn't take any chances, so I'd rinse it.

      More importantly: Was the tarragon good? If so, what brand was it? Usually I find myself disappointed with the packaged herbs in supermarkets.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ediblover

        Eh, now that you mention it, the flavor was disappointing. I originally tasted the dish (chicken salad) after a friend had made it. I love tarragon, and her dish was very nice in this regard. I used her recipe and my dish came out well, but I was surprised that the tarragon flavoring wasn't more pronounced, especially as I intentionally did not scrimp (while also being careful not to overdo things). Maybe it was the packaged tarragon, as you suggested. I'm sure my friend used fresh tarragon, but I don't know where she got it. My tarragon was packed by Rockhedge Farms, fwiw.

        1. As a rule, I wash anything that doesn't specifically state "washed and ready to use" on the package. I think I know the herbs you're talking about, or at least something similar is sold at my local Kroger and I always rinse them because the package doesn't give the clear OK.

          1. I recommend washing anything that you buy and are going to eat.

            I don't mean to be crass but those herbs are not packaged by machines (or I don't think they are) and people packaging anything or picking anything from the field (not a comment on the people doing the work, we all do this we just don't notice it) will be touching their faces, noses, sneezing, etc during their work day.

            I am certainly no clean freak and I don't use the sanitizing wipes for my grocery cart or anything - but I do at least give everything a quick rinse.

            3 Replies
            1. re: thimes

              I'm with you, thimes. I don't really like eating / serving food that hasn't been properly washed. But, I also think that, in this case, rinsing the tarragon under running water isn't really going to kill anything as potentially nasty as germs, bacteria, etc. that might have been transferred during collection / processing. The tarragon leaves were so flimsy, for lack of a better description; all I really managed to do was get them wet, which only made them hard to handle and chop finely. Not sure what the solution is here, short of sourcing more substantial tarragon leaves, if they even exist.

              1. re: uwsgrazer

                Have a salad spinner? In lieu of that, wrap the herb up in a cloth towel, spin the ends to tighten and whirl it around, while grasping both ends of the towel; that should remove enough moisture to make it easier to chop. Tarragon is a tender herb, wilts easily and should be kept dry and chopped dry.

                If the flavor was lacking, perhaps the tarragon was slightly past it's prime, as it's flavor can fade.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  My salad spinner is way too big for a bunch of tarragon leaves. I'm not sure I can pull off your towel-spinning trick, but it's worth a try.

                  While the tarragon leaves appeared nice (no bruises or brown spots), maybe they were just too bland. Kind of like some tomatoes I've had. They look great but don't taste like much. Bleh.