One of the issues nearly every CSA faces is how to use up all the products you receive each week. Of course, some CSAs establish trade boxes or bi-weekly shares, but it is my humble opinion that you really aren’t embracing the notion of the CSA mission if you don’t eat what’s in your share. Early in the season, that probably means you have a surfeit of herbs.
In just the first two weeks of the CSA season, I’ve had the following herbs: cilantro, oregano, mint, chives, basil and garlic scapes. That’s a lot of zest in my diet, and I always struggle with certain herbs (i.e. mint; I have CSA friends who really begin to dread cilantro, but as readers of my blog know, I adore salsa, so cilantro is the least of my herbal problems).
First off, it’s important to remember that herbs should never end up in your compost (trash), excepting maybe the stems. I remember last year somone at the CSA talking about keeping herbs fresh by standing them in a glass of water and covering them loosely with plastic wrap. This would prolong the life of the herb by a couple weeks or more, depending on refrigerator temperature. She then noted, however, that she still wasn’t able to use up all her herbs, still throwing away a percentage of them.
I was somewhat incredulous. “Why didn’t you dry them?” She just stared. It had never occured to her to dry her herbs. I learned my lesson early on in the CSA experience. While not all fresh herbs dry particularly well (e.g. basil), certain herbs will dry with no effort at all (e.g. oregano, thyme). Whenever I get these herbs in my share, I go ahead and separate out approximately two-thirds to dry. I make sure the herb is clean and separated (ideally, I’d have an Austen-esque kitchen whereby I could hang them upside down, but a flat space away from the cats does almost as well, even if it’s far less romantic!).
One of the ways to use up your herbs is simply to remember to use them! I made fried zuchini, dipping the egg-and-cream-washed vegetable slices into a mixture of bread crumbs, whole wheat flour and chopped chives. Green eggs are always my breakfast of choice this time of year (simply add herbs to your eggs; if you’re more industrious, try a quiche!). Make mint lemonade (or mint julep/moxito syrup, which keeps in the fridge for weeks). Or try this pesto recipe:
- 1/2 bunch basil (approx. 40 leaves)
- 1/2 bunch mint (approx. 40 leaves)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (courtesy of Whole Foods, if you cannot find them elsewhere)
- 2/3 cup olive oil
Clean the leaves and combine all ingredients in a blender. Once creamy, the sauce is enough for a pound of pasta, or spread on crustini for a cool, fresh bread-based snack.