10.17.11 Waste Not, Want Not

Harvest 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without.Eleanor Roosevelt said that, probably during the Depression or some wartime crunch. But I love its sentiment: the idea that what we have is enough. "Making do" is not really something you see advertised alongside Big Gulps and $35,000 handbags. Last weekend in the Times' opinion section, I saw this piece about a divorced Brooklyn mother of two who fell on hard times and resorted to starting a victory garden and baking her own bread to get by. (A former Bergdorf Goodman shopper and unwilling to give up perfume, she now makes her own from fragrant herbs!) It was very inspiring, and it gave me serious pause when I went to write "mint tea" on the grocery list that's posted on the door of our fridge. Instead, I went out to the garden and harvested huge armfuls of fresh mint. I had cut the unruly plants back a month ago—and frozen and preserved some leaves then—but they had grown in more vigorously than ever. While I was out there, I also snipped lots of other things to dry and use over the coming winter months.
Lovage 790 xxx
all you need is lovage
I made a big batch of lovage syrup, which I adore mixed with seltzer and in gin cocktails. I tossed a few of these celery-like leaves into a pot of chicken soup today.
Green tomato harvest 790 xxx
the green, green tomatoes of home
All these beauties were languishing on the vine, not going to properly ripen now that the temperatures are dropping, so I made a wonderfully tart and crisp batch of fried green tomatoes. (Recipe coming tomorrow.)
Thai peppers 790 xxx
thai me up, thai me down
These brilliant scarlet Thai peppers, each one no bigger than my thumbnail, can be dried and tossed into soups, stews and stir-fries to add quite a kick.
Shiso 790 xxx
shiso fine
I grew three different kinds of shiso this year and they did extraordinarily well—either they were in a good spot, or they liked all the rain. I've never dried shiso before, and have no idea if it holds its flavor, but I plan to toss some into my hot pots and see what's what.
Rosemary 790 xxx
rosemary has a sharp, piney fragrance
I like to use dried rosemary in tomato sauces, but I'll also mix a few fresh branches with lemon for a sweetly herbal syrup that is sophisticated and delicious.
Sage 790 xxx
sage is the wise herb
To dry fresh herbs, simply spread them out in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets and let them air dry; or, you can speed the process by drying them in the oven on the lowest setting. For me, this is 170º, so I usually bring the oven up to temperature then turn it off, leaving the herbs inside as it cools.
Echinacea 790 xxx
these look a little like sea urchins, don't they?
You can even use up the dried centers of your echinacea plants in a tonic that helps fight colds and flu. (At worst, it tastes really great...)
Lemon balm 790 xxx
lemon balm or "sweet melissa"
Mints 790 xxx
spearmint and peppermint
I picked all the mint leaves off the stems—time-consuming, yes, but a meditative pastime I actually enjoy.
Frozen mint 790 xxx
frozen in time
Some of the mint I froze...
Mint sugar 790 xxx
a layered effect
...some I layered with organic sugar in a big jar...
Dried mint 790 xxx
mint condition
...and the rest I combined with the lemon balm and dried for tea. Mint soothes the digestive tract, and this tea is a great thing to sip after dinner or before going to bed. You're supposed to cover your cup while the mint is brewing to prevent the beneficial oils from evaporating. Wondering what to do with mint sugar? Use it in this recipe for super chocolatey cookies. Or in your next cup of cocoa. Or sprinkled over fresh melon. Or simply stirred into your mint tea. Before you know it, we'll be making our own toothpaste!


Everything in here sounds wonderful. Just sayin'.
Lisa on October 17, 2011 at 3:36 am —
A lot of work!! you are crazy. I should tell some Shiso preserve, which I did not do this year. I am so lazy.
tomo on October 17, 2011 at 7:12 am —
Tomo, I'd love to hear about those shiso preserves...
laura on October 17, 2011 at 7:44 am —
Once again, inspirational!
Mily on October 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm —
Motivates me to get our garden at the Villa underway...almost ready now, the hot months are just about over
Jessica on October 25, 2011 at 7:02 am —
Yes, you've got a great climate there, Jessica. And some wonderful native plants like damiana!
laura on October 25, 2011 at 7:06 am —
Your post inspired me to take leftover rosemary from garden and make a rosemary lemon syrup. Wow! Fantastic. Thanks! And thanks for great blog.
Peter B. on December 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm —
Hi, Peter. That syrup is a favorite of mine, and very satisfying to make it from your own garden, no?
laura on December 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm —