Monday, June 3, 2013


BY MARGARET AT A WAY TO GARDEN.COM Parsley, a biennial, is easy to grow from seed, despite being ultra-slow and taking two weeks to a month to germinate. Don’t give up on it. I start a 6-pack in the house in early spring, tucking the just-moist cellpack into a slightly ajar plastic bag in a warm spot, then moving to the sunniest windowsill once I see signs of life. The baby plants, which will look like not so much, quickly put down tap roots and settle in outdoors, shaping up by summer into bushy things. Unlike many vegetable- and herb-garden residents, parsley will manage in part shade, so the north side of your tomatoes (which basil might resent) is fine, for instance, and it does well even spilling out of beds, planted near the edge. Parsley will technically survive most winters here, but what a mess it will be. To continue to harvest fresh leaves as long as possible into the cold months, tuck one plant in extra-snuggly at frost, perhaps with an upside-down bushel basket over it, and with dry oak leaves or another insulating material stuffed inside that. The plant will usually send up its flower stalk to set seed the next spring; dig it out and compost it, and start the process over. In a stressful summer (hot and dry), the plant may get the urge to “bolt” by midsummer, not even making it into the coming year. It’s hard to get to my vegetable garden in the worst winters, so I freeze my year’s supply: some as “pesto” cubes, others in “logs” of leaflets pressure-rolled tightly inside freezer bags (above). The log technique (so easy, and probably the only cooking Good Thing I contributed to “Martha Stewart Living,” though my record with gardening ideas was better!) is illustrated below in the slideshow below; many herbs freeze well this way, such as chives, and when you need some, you just slice a disc from one end of the log.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

8 Steps for Freezing Herbs in Oil

Choose firm, fresh herbs, ideally from the market or your own garden. If you wish, you can chop them fine. Or leave them in larger sprigs and leaves. Here I froze a combination of finely-chopped and whole herbs such as rosemary, fennel stalk, sage, and oregano. Pack the wells of ice cube trays about 2/3 full of herbs. You can mix up the herbs, too; think about freezing a bouquet garni of sage, thyme, and rosemary to add to winter roast chickens and potatoes! Pour extra-virgin olive oil or melted, unsalted butter over the herbs. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Remove the frozen cubes and store in freezer containers or small bags. Don't forget to label each container or bag with the type of herb (and oil) inside!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Do you use your freezer to preserve herbs, vegetables, or fruit? The freezer can be a powerful, overlooked method of preserving. Pesto, strawberry puree, tomato soup — stash them away now for colder times! One of my favorite ingredients, a handful of fresh herbs from the garden, is one of the simplest things to preserve in the freezer, and I just learned a new, better way to freeze herbs: In oil! Preserving herbs in oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burn that herbs can get in the freezer. It's also a great way to have herbs ready immediately for winter stews, roasts, soups, and potato dishes. These dishes usually call for oil to start with, and so you can take a cube of frozen oil, herbs inside, out of the freezer and use this as the base of your dish. Cook the onions and garlic in this herb-infused oil and let the taste of herbs spread through your whole dish. Given this use, the oil-and-freezer method of preservation works best with the tougher hard herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. These are all herbs that would probably be cooked when added to a dish. Soft herbs such as mint, basil, lemon verbena, and dill are usually added raw to a dish, and they don't respond as well to this kind of preserving. Their fresh taste is changed in the freezer, and honestly, I don't usually choose to freeze these delicate sorts of herbs at all, with the exception of homemade basil pesto. Some folks do freeze soft herbs in bags without any water or oil, which essentially preserves them by drying them out. I don't prefer the taste of dried mint and other herbs, so I just never do this.