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Carol's latest book, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, is now available. Designed for small households, each perfectly-proportioned recipe serves two people. You will eliminate unwanted leftovers and reduce waste when you cook right-size meals with the 125 recipes in this book. Enjoy!! Celebrate with me!!! Gluten-Free Cooking for Two has won two awards: named one of ten "Best Gluten-Free Cooking Books in 2017" by Healthline.com and won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Living Now Book Awards in the "Natural, Nutrition, Organic, Vegetarian" category.
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Where in the World is Carol?

Carol's in the kitchen, cooking up recipes for her next cookbook and www.CarolFenster.com

Watch for Carol on "Creative Living with Sheryl Borden," a PBS-TV show airing on your local PBS station during 2017-2018.

Enjoying and Preserving Fresh Herbs

HERBS ARE A GOOD THING; WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO PRESERVE THEM

You all know that I love my herb garden. And for good reason. Herbs add flavor to our food—no matter what diet you follow, gluten-free, Paleo, vegetarian, low-fat or whatever.

Two types of sage grow in Carol Fenster's herb garden.

They can be used decoratively in floral arrangements as well as food garnishes and they also have medicinal qualities (e.g., sage tea for sore throats or thyme tea for respiratory congestion)

A package of fresh herbs costs about $3 (or more if organic), yet most recipes don’t use the whole package. Leftover herbs are often thrown away after wilting in the fridge—or our over-abundant garden produces too much to use up at one time.

So, preserving those precious fresh herbs saves money and makes them available to us throughout the year, whenever we want. Here are my tips:

GROWING AND HARVESTING YOUR OWN HERBS FOR MAXIMUM YIELD

Follow directions for your zone and fertilize accordingly. Location (in relation to the sun) is critical. Some herbs, such as rosemary, need sun while others, such as basil, can’t tolerate too much. Where I put my plants in relation to the shade and time of day is critical to how well they fare throughout the summer, so experiment to find the best place for yours.

Pinch new growth regularly— just above a node or joint in the stem—to maintain a healthy, bushy plant. Remove any withered or yellowed growth.

Water according to what the plant needs; some can tolerate drier soil while others like it wetter. Read the directions that came with the herb plant or look it up in a gardening book or the Internet.

STORING FRESH HERBS

Parsley is a healthy garnish and a delicious herb.

Parsley is a healthy garnish and a delicious herb.

When you pick a whole bunch of herbs from your garden or buy a lot at the Farmer’s Market, store them properly to prolong their freshness. Store fresh herbs with cut ends in a glass of water in fridge OR wrapped loosely in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. Leave the end of the plastic bag unsealed to allow for some air circulation. When they start to look wilted, it’s time to preserve them before they’re no longer usable.

PRESERVING FRESH HERBS WITH A MICROWAVE OVEN

There are many ways to dry herbs, such as hanging a bunch by the stems (covered by paper bag) in a dry place for a few days (this works especially well for sage). My favorite method is much quicker.

[1] Wash and pat the herbs with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Discard any mushy or wilted parts.

[2] Place the herb sprigs in a single layer on a paper towel-lined, microwave-safe plate. Microwave on High power for 2 to 3 minutes, in 1-minute increments. Check after each 1-minute increment; they should be completely dry and brittle. If there is any moisture, they could mold during storage. The exact time to dry them will vary by the amount of moisture in the herbs and your microwave.

[3] Strip off the leaves with your fingers and discard stems, which can be tough and woody. Last year, I failed to remove all of the thyme stems and now I have to pick them out by hand from the dried leaves.

[4] Place the dried herbs in airtight glass jars with tight-fitting lids, not plastics or metals. Be sure to clearly label each herb. Glass spice jars work especially well for this purpose. Store these jars in a dark, dry place without sunlight so moisture doesn’t build up inside and cause them to spoil.

FREEZING FRESH HERBS

Dill is perfect for salads, pickles, and entrees.

Dill is perfect for salads, pickles, and entrees.

Some herbs―especially soft herbs that hold a lot of moisture such as basil, lemon balm, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, and parsley―freeze well in plastic freezer bags for up to six months. Rinse them first and pat as dry as possible, then place in the bags. They will look a little bruised when thawed—and they must be used in cooked dishes (e.g., in soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) and won’t look nice in fresh foods like salads since they will be mushy—but their flavor is still intact and they retain all of their health benefits. In fact, I routinely freeze parsley and save considerable time later by not having to chop it up; it’s just waiting for me in the freezer. And, it keeps its color fairly well, too. Plus, I save money because it doesn’t go to waste.

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