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Saving Herbs

by Jane Worthington-Roth

The cooler weather is fast approaching. Some vegetables need the cooler weather to sweeten, but others are particularly vulnerable to the frost. I love to use fresh herbs year-round and often have a bunch growing in my kitchen. Sometimes I buy fresh herbs at the market, but often end up with much more than I need at the time. I hate to waste the herbs and luckily they're easy to save.

Many folks pick the herbs then let them air-dry, or oven-dry them thoroughly before storing for later use.  Another way to preserve herbs is to chop them up and freeze them in an ice-cube tray with each herb-cube covered by water. They can then be transferred to a plastic bag for future use.

I haven't had much luck with the ice-cube method. Any herb bits that are near the edge of the cube tend to get frostbite and, because the herbs are frozen in a block of water, they are difficult to use when I don't want the recipe diluted. 

Drying herbs works well for some of the hardier or stronger scented herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano, but drying herbs such as parsley results in something that tastes like crepe paper confetti!

For the past ten years I've used another method for keeping herbs such as parley, cilantro, mint and basil. I rinse the herbs well, pick the leaves off the stems (you can keep the stems on the cilantro), dry the herbs in a salad spinner, then put them in a plastic freezer bag. I try to lay the delicate leaves in a thin layer. I keep them in the freezer always ready at hand with no waste!

Whenever I need a small amount of fresh herbs, I just break off what I need. One recipe I am particularly fond of is Mango Salsa.  I buy fresh mango, lime and red onion; I always have frozen cilantro as well as frozen chili peppers in my fridge. I just chop off exactly what I need to use! 

Mango Salsa

2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/2 small hot red jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, minced 
1 lime
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (or parsley)

Combine the mango, onion and jalapeño in a bowl. Add the zest from the lime and half of the juice from the lime. Mix well and taste. If the lime isn't very juicy, you might want to add the rest of the lime juice. Feel free to add more - or - less onion and hot pepper, to taste. Just before serving, mix in the cilantro (or parsley).

This salsa goes especially well with a simple baked or grilled fish. The bright orange, red and green mix looks great and tastes delicious!