Between Laurie Gladstein and Pamela Salzman, I'm in very good hands when it comes to my herbs. Laurie has taught me how to plant and maintain a thriving herb garden while Pamela has shared her secrets for storing herbs with me. Pamela's tips not only keep them alive and fresh longer, but also make them look very chic in the refrigerator, which is equally important to me! I want to share some tips with you from both of them for growing and storing your own herbs.
Laurie's Advice on Growing and Using Herbs in the Garden
Herbs are easy to grow, incredibly forgiving, beautiful and inspiring. I like to grow herbs in pots, raised beds, on balconies, in window boxes, in whiskey barrels, or in the ground.
When choosing a place to plant your herbs, first consider the sun. Most herbs want at least 6 hours of sun. An exception to this is cilantro, which will need some shade to prevent bolting.
Herbs like to be planted in soils with good drainage. Some will tolerate less ideal soils but, others, like dill, can be fussy. Make sure to plant mint in a pot by itself. Mint is an invasive plant and will take over an entire vegetable garden if left to wander. Putting mint in a pot keeps it well contained and thriving.
Harvest your herbs as needed. I like to cut them while the stove is warming. Make sure to cut an entire sprig rather then just a couple of leaves. Cutting the sprig encourages the plant to put out new growth while taking a couple of leaves weakens the plant. When cutting your herbs stick to the 1/3 rule; never cut more then 1/3 of the plant at one time. There needs to be enough green on the plant to signal the plant to keep growing. An exception to this rule is chives, which can be cut all the way back if needed.
I like using fresh herbs not only in the kitchen, but also all over the house. Put freshly cut lavender and chamomile flowers in small vases around your home. Try mint in floral arrangements. I use rosemary, sea salt and almond oil to make a wonderful body scrub.
Pick up a copy of The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld. It has delicious herb garden driven recipes as well as a detailed guide to growing your own herbs.
Pamela's Trick for Keeping Herbs Fresh in the Fridge
Basically, if you treat your fresh herbs like cut flowers, they will last you much longer than if you just store them in a plastic bag in the fridge. I also like to wash certain herbs as soon as I bring them home so that they are always ready to go when I'm cooking or juicing -- this is so helpful when you're crunched for time on a weeknight! I do this with cilantro, parsley, dill and mint. I also do the same for basil, but I don't wash it until I'm ready to use it. Basil also prefers the warmest part of your fridge.
Some Tips for Tending to Herbs
-Take the bunch of herbs and trim a little bit off the bottoms, enough to take the dry edges off.
-Remove any string or rubber band holding together the bunch and rinse the herbs in plenty of cold water in a small sink or a large bowl.
-Pull herbs out of the water and lay on a kitchen towel to dry.
-If the herbs are sufficiently dry, place a plastic bag (like the kind in the produce section of the market) over the herb bouquet and refrigerate.
-If you haven't used all the herbs after 1 week, check for yellow leaves and change the water.
With Laurie and Pamela’s help I have a garden and fridge full of beautiful herbs. I follow all of Pamela’s suggestions except for putting the plastic bag over them, because I can't stand the way it looks in my glass fridge! It really does work and keeps my herbs fresh and happy for up to two weeks. They look so beautiful in my fridge I have begun using them for arrangements for a summer dinner! XXJKE