Martha Stewart: Drying herbs from your garden lets you use them all winter

  • By Martha Stewart
  • Tuesday, August 10, 2010 5:38pm
  • Life

Q How can I preserve the herbs from my garden when summer ends?

A: The simplest way to save leftover herbs is to dry them. Spread the sprigs on a dish towel, and leave them out of direct sunlight for two to four days.

Use them on their own, or mix the herbs, finely chopped, with an equal amount of coarse salt. Add the blend to dishes as you cook or at the table; try marjoram with vegetables, and tarragon with fish and poultry.

Fragrant herbs such as lavender can scent sugar: Place a few dried flowers in a jar of sugar for one week, shaking it occasionally. Then sift out the blooms.

Sprinkle the sugar onto baked goods, or make hot chocolate with it. Keep savory and sweet seasonings in airtight containers in a cool, dark spot. They will last until spring.

You can also incorporate fresh herbs into condiments and sauces. To make herb butter, combine 4 parts butter with 1 part chopped herbs. Shape the mixture into a log on parchment, and store it in a resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate the butter for one week, or freeze it for up to two months (thaw it in the refrigerator before using). Serve the butter on steak, fish or vegetables, or with bread.

Pesto is another popular option. Any leafy herb will work: basil, of course, but also parsley or cilantro. Freeze the sauce in ice cube trays, and then store the cubes in a resealable plastic bag for up to six months. Defrost them at room temperature or in the microwave.

For refreshing cocktails and homemade sodas, infuse simple syrup with a favorite herb. Boil equal parts sugar and water over medium-high heat. Once the sugar dissolves, remove the syrup from the heat and add herbs. Steep for 30 minutes, and strain through a fine sieve, discarding the solids.

Let the syrup cool before mixing it into drinks, or refrigerate it for up to two months. Or freeze the syrup in ice cube trays for flavorful drinks all winter; defrost them at room temperature before using.

Q: I bought a credenza that smells of stale tobacco. Is there any way to get rid of the scent?

A: The tar in tobacco binds soot and nicotine residue to nearby surfaces, and porous materials such as wood easily absorb smoke’s telltale odor.

You can try trisodium phosphate (sold in hardware stores), a cleaner that will dissolve the tar deposits, said Don Williams, senior furniture conservator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Conservation Institute and co-author of “Saving Stuff: How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions.”

But it should not be used on antique or other valuable furniture. Mix a solution with tepid water according to the instructions on the label. Apply it with a clean, soft, well-wrung rag (saturating the wood can damage the finish or cause warping).

Nicotine discolors furniture, so don’t be surprised if the rag becomes grimy and needs rinsing several times as you work. Then wipe down the piece with a clean rag barely dampened with distilled water.

Next, set an odor-neutralizing product in the drawers. One option is charcoal, which will absorb the smell over a period of weeks. Williams suggests placing a small, unopened bag of untreated briquettes in the cabinet.

If the scent lingers after a month, replace the bag. If you want a quicker solution, try the mineral zeolite, available at pet stores. It works faster than charcoal but costs more.

Q: I just purchased a set of knives. How do I dispose of the old ones?

A: If they are in good condition and have not been recalled (see the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall page at http://cpsc.gov1160EDB012039450), donate them to a charitable organization such as Goodwill or a local shelter, which may use them as part of kitchen starter packages for residents moving to their own homes (to be safe, never sharpen utensils before donation).

If giving away the knives isn’t an option, you can recycle or discard them. Wrap them in cardboard (cereal boxes work well), secure the packaging with tape and label it clearly with “Caution: Sharp.”

If your town does not include knives in its recycling program, throw them out — wrapped and labeled — with your regular garbage.

Address questions to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., Ninth floor, New York, NY 10001. Send e-mail to

&Copy; 2010 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.

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