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The Vegan Street to Preserving Herbs
Because planting 14 varieties of basil seemed like a great idea in March. Now, not so much.
If you spent a lot of this past horrible, interminable winter flipping
through seed catalogs and dreaming of mojitos and pesto, as I did, you
might be confronted right now, as I am, with a surfeit of grandiose,
bulked-up herbs that are crowding each other out as they vie for your
attention and threaten to revolt (a.k.a., flower). Do you wake up in a
cold sweat wondering what to do with all that &*^% rosemary? Have
you ever felt that you’ve let your cilantro down? Has your sage seen
better days? Then you might need to get started doing something about
it, my friend. In a month or so, we will cover drying fresh herbs, but
for now, we’re going to address extending the life of your herbs (or at
least your use of them) through your fridge and freezer.
This is a way to extend the use of fresh herbs for the short term. With
the exception of a few herbs that are damaged by the cold of
refrigeration (basil comes to mind), you can keep fresh herbs going at
least a week and sometimes more simply by maintaining a practice of
simple managed care in your fridge. After snipping off your herbs at
the bottom of the stems, you can store in a glass filled with enough
water for the stem ends, cover loosely with a plastic bag and use the
herbs as you need them, changing the water every couple of days. Fresh
herbs that are damaged by the cold, such as basil, can be stored this
way at room temperature. With proper changing of the water, they can be
stored for up to two weeks this way. Washing them as you use them
instead of before will also help to extend their freshness.
refrigeration method that works even better at extending the freshness
of herbs and is especially useful for when you have a lot is storing
them in airtight containers with a damp kitchen towel that is changed
every few days. I’ve kept herbs fresh this way for two to three weeks
without a problem. This is easier for those of us who are nervous of
knocking over glasses in the fridge.
For the herbs you want to be able to use months from now, freezing may
be your best option. For harder herbs with woody stems and smaller
leaves like rosemary, thyme and oregano, freezing them whole on the
stem might be your best option. Cut on the stem where the leaves begin,
rinse, dry, and freeze on a cookie sheet or other flat surface. After
freezing for 24 hours, place them in individual, labeled freezer bags
for easy use whenever you want them. Once frozen, they can be removed
from the stem by rolling over the leaves with a rolling pin.
For softer herbs like basil, mint, and cilantro, the ice cube method
might be your best strategy for keeping them for an extended time.
Rinse, remove from the stems, and process with a liquid like water,
broth or oil in a food processor. (I used broth: the issue with oil in
addition to the calories is there are some herbs, like mint, you will
likely not want to cook with oil.) Spoon into your ice cube tray,
freeze for at least 24 hours, then pop out and place in labeled freezer
bags. These herb cubes are great to use in soups, stews, sauces and
more in the months ahead.
2013, 2014, Vegan Street