Marilyn’s Blog


Herbs 101

The Martha Stewart Show, November 2008

You can enjoy herbs during the winter by preserving your abundance of summer herb plants. You’ll not only add a fresh burst of flavor to your soups, stews, and sauces — you’ll also save money!

Preserve Herbs in Tulle
1. Make sure herbs are rinsed and dried.
2. Cut tulle in 18-by-24-inch pieces.
3. Arrange herbs on the tulle, and roll into tubes.
4. Tie the ends with raffia or twine.
5. Store in refrigerator for two weeks.
6. Once herbs are dry, crumble into storage tins until you are ready to use them.How to Blanch and Freeze Basil
1. Bring large pot of water to a boil.
2. Have ready a large bowl of ice water.
3. Secure stems of a large bunch of basil with string.
4. Holding the bunch by the tied stem end, dip the leaves into the boiling
water for just a few seconds.
5. Remove and plunge into the ice water (this will stop the leaves from cooking).
6. Pat the basil dry with a kitchen towel.
7. Strip the blanched leaves off the stems.
8. Store in freezer bags until ready to use.

How to Make Frozen Basil Oil Cubes
1. Basil cubes are great for dipping bread or to use as the base of pesto.
2. Begin by blanching the basil, same way as above.
3. Put leaves in blender and cover with 1 pint extra-virgin olive oil (or milder oil if you prefer).
4. Puree.
5. Pour into ice cube trays filling each cube about 2/3 full.
6. Freeze until solid.
7. Remove herb cubes from tray.
8. Store in plastic freezer bag until ready to use.

Herbs That Grow Best Indoors
The herbs we featured on the show include:

Planting Herbs
Herbs can be planted in a small window box suitable for a sunny kitchen ledge or a strawberry pot with holes for plants all around, like used on the show.

Requirements for Growing Herbs Successfully
– Light requirements: 6 hours in a sunny window for most herbs, 4 is OK for rosemary, mint, and parsley.
– You could also use a grow light. It should be approximately 16 inches above the plants and needs to be on for 12 to 14 hours to provide the equivalent of 6 hours sunlight. It looks like a fluorescent light tube.
– Drainage: All herbs require especially good drainage. The containers must have drainage holes on the bottom, and Leda recommend adding additional perlite or sand to a commercial potting soil mix (1 part perlite or sand to 3 parts mix).
– Watering: Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes people make when growing herbs indoors. The surface of the soil must be allowed to dry to a depth of 1-inch before watering, and then it should be a good, deep watering (until water flows through the drainage holes).
– Feeding: Herbs should be fed once a month with a half-strength organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Leda Meredith, an ethnobotanist who regularly lectures at The New York Botanical Garden, for sharing her passion for the local food movement, plants, cooking, and foraging. For more information on herbs, check out her book “Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes.”