In one of our past blog posts, ISland Growers discussed some tips about keeping your herbs fresh for longer. Today we share our own experience in keeping fruits fresh.
The world is currently still battling the Covid-19 pandemic. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, the cases have risen to alarming levels where the Government has declared a State of Emergency to help flatten or reduce the infection rate.
This means that sourcing food for your family has to be carefully managed both on an economical and safety front.
Buying food in bulk will help lessen your trips to the green markets or grocery stores. While this makes sense, it introduces the possibility of some of the bought vegetables, fruits and herbs going bad before you get to use or eat it. Fruits tend to develop mold very easily. This is possibly due to the fruit contaminated with spores and then moisture allowing the mold to grow.
Google and you will find many useful tips and tricks to help you prevent fruits from going bad easily. What has worked for our family is a very simple method of washing the freshly purchased or picked fruits with a water and vinegar mix - usually one ounce or 30 ml of vinegar to one (1) litre of tap water. Soak the fruit for 30-60 seconds, remove from the mixture and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or flat surface lined with paper or cloth towel. Allow to air dry, place in clean packaging (kits, bags etc) and place in their storage area (refrigerator, counter top).
The above has help us keep fruits fresh for a long time. Strawberries which can develop mold quite easily, lasts more than 7 days after purchasing (provided it is not eaten by then!). Our little one loves fruits and getting a fresh supply of fruits for his consumption is a weekly activity. With the pandemic, accessing the fruits is tricky as it means braving the crowds to purchase. We get some from our backyard but inevitably we must purchase and keeping them fresh is important to ensure we save on money and safeguard our wellbeing.
So when you purchase or pick your next batch of fruits, take the extra 2-5 minutes of prep time that will more than likely keep your fruits fresh long enough so that you will actually get to eat it!
We have all been down this road. You bought your fresh herbs or vegetables on the weekend, by Tuesday, they have lost their potency and by Friday they are a bag of runny, smelly mush in your fridge. So how could anyone reduce the amount of money you throw away? Some simple practices will go a long way to saving both time, money, and the environment.
We are primarily focused on herbs production at the moment, with Kale in the mix, thus this blog will concentrate on how to keep your herbs fresh, longer, once harvested. However the same methods could be applied to veggies given the circumstances.
A simple herb saving advice
Do not buy more than you need! Sounds simple, but buying excess amount of herbs or food needed will result in wasted produce, as no matter what preserving method you use, some will be thrown away. When Island Growers packages the produce, we estimate the use for a family or individuals of 2-4, thus ensuring you receive an optimum amount at a very affordable price (helping you fight the "yuh eye too big" syndrome). We have kept our retail prices of herbs at the same price for the last two years; high quality, safe to eat, organic product does not and should not mean a higher price, which seems to be the norm for other producers. #shade
Bacteria and fungi love your harvested herbs. Not good news for you. It is highly recommended that any utensil or storage container used to harvest or store the herbs should be sanitised or cleaned before use. Bacteria/Fungi can bring an early demise to your herbs. Hence it is recommended to wash your herbs if you bought it a supermarket or farmer's market and then use a salad spinner to dry the herbs (or pat dry with paper towels. You can then reuse this towel, see below). At Island Growers, all our harvesting, storage and equipment used in the transport of the herbs are sanitised. Before we place the herbs in the supermarkets, we give our display bins a good wipe down with our preferred, safe to use sanitising cleaner.
Identify the type of herbs
Herbs can be classified as two types: woody (or hard) and soft herbs. Examples of woody herbs are thyme and rosemary and soft herbs are mint or parsley.
Once you have identified the type of herb, the methods to keeping it fresh will differ.
For woody herbs, dampen a paper towel (of good quality), place the herbs length ways (so that the majority of it is on the paper towel), and then fold the paper towel. Place in a reusable plastic bag or zip lock bag. we would recommend to punch a few holes in the bag (more on this later). This method should keep your woody herbs fresh for at least 2 weeks if not more.
For soft herbs, you could place the herbs in a jar of water and place in your refrigerator. Some chefs recommend placing a bag over the herbs. Also, basil can be kept on the counter top using this method, but uncovered. If this is not an option, loosely cover the stem ends only of the herbs with a dampen paper towel and store in a reusable plastic bag or zip lock bag, again punching a few holes in the bag. This should keep your herbs fresh for at least 2 weeks or more.
You could get a longer use of your herbs if you freeze it, but then it does not really qualify as fresh. That fact aside, it is still a good way to preserve herbs longer. A good tip is to blend the herbs in a food processor and then freeze portions in ice-trays (you can add oil for an even better way of use and preserving). This way you can pop out how much you need and use accordingly. You can also bulk freeze. This method is ideal for those who make and use Trinbago-famous green seasoning.
Let it breathe!
About those punched holes mentioned above. We have experienced better results when herbs are stored in a container where it's allowed to breathe a little (not too much). With the moisture from the dampen paper towel, the herbs tend to retain it's structure and potency a little while longer. We know it works as our customers have happily told us. If you have purchased our products at the supermarkets, now you know why there are those small little holes in the packaging.
Keep that Ethylene away!
Your refrigerator or kitchen is a chemical warfare zone. A couple of your veggies emit ethylene gas which is a serious issue for herbs sensitive to ethylene gas. Ethylene gas is produced from culprits such as apples, zaboca (aka avocado) and banana. Ethylene is a natural gas produced by fruits which helps it ripen and become more edible. Too much ethylene build up in a closed environment will cause some produce such as herbs to wilt or spoil as we say in Trinbago. Thus controlling the level of ethylene gas is important for maintaining herbs fresher for longer periods. Simply placing the herbs in a separate crisper or container away from ethylene producing fruits will help.
Use the herbs
You did not buy your herbs for decor (although that is a thing now we have heard). You saw a recipe, had a craving or just wanted to cook a good meal. Came home, but decided to go on Facebook, play Fortnite or the beach lime was too good to pass up. Whatever it is, yuh didn't cook so the herbs get thrown aside and forgotten. You have a plan, stick to it. Use the herbs. This is not a method to preserve the herbs, but rather to prevent the herbs from a wilt of shame demise.
Buy Island Growers Produce
Yes. There you have it, the Plug. We make no apologies :)
At Island Growers, we have worked over the years to provide you with healthy, safe to eat herbs and vegetables that are free of harmful chemicals/pesticides or enhancers. Keeping to this ideal, our produce stays fresh longer and our growing method reduces any negative environmental impact. What''s a better testament to our craft when the birds and the bees decide to hang out in our farm!
So there you have it, keeping herbs fresh has many factors involved, but it's very doable to maintain the freshness of your herbs for a lot longer than normal. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, let us or our readers know.
Chimichurri is an easy, simple to make sauce, but one that is very versatile, where you will not regret the gastronomic experience. WARNING: If you put ketchup on everything, this sauce is not for you!
Chimichurri is said to be originally from Argentina, but it is widely popular in many Latin American cultures and cooking. The sauce is mainly used with grilled meats. However, the flavour profile allows it to be paired with veggies, bread and seafood. It's a favourite when steaks are involved. It's tangy, with a smooth, cool heat. Oxymoron? Nope, just pure awesomeness.
The base of a good chimichurri sauce is parsley. Yes. Simple parsley. Parsley is not just for making tabbouleh or garnishing creamy salads. To make a simple chimichurri sauce, you will need:
Pro Tip: Roast the garlic (with skin) on stove top. Remove skin and add to chopper/processor. The roasted garlic gives the sauce a smoky flavour.
What the dill? Don't worry, Island Growers has you covered.
Dill is a very versatile herb, providing both flavour and/or aesthetics to a dish. You may already know its associates, celery, carrot and parsley, as they all belong to the same family. Not bad company! Dill is recognised by its slender stalks with feathery leaves. The flavour is said to be a warm but distinct flavour, with notes of fennel or anise for comparison.
Dill is used in food and also for medicinal or homeopathy uses. We cannot vouch for its homeopathic use, but it is said to be good for digestion, it's said to be anti-inflammatory, inhibits fungal infection (dill oil) among other uses.
The main question. Be prepared to be dilled over by its many uses.
Dill is ideally paired with:
Basically, go to town with this herb, your creativity is the only limitation.
Our Dill fits the bill anytime. Organically grown and free of pesticides or harmful chemicals. Providing healthy food is our priority. Importantly, it's dill-icious!
Mix or whisk all ingredients in a medium bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve. That's it!
Could be used on lamb, beef, fish or as a dip paired with your favourite chip.
Mint holds a special place at Island Growers.
While visiting many upstanding watering holes, Mojitos were not consistently available due to the lack of supply/availability of the herb. That's when Mr. and Mrs. had a eureka moment and in due course, Island Growers was born; its main purpose being to supply restaurants and bars with mint. We have been doing this for the past year or so, supplying some major restaurants in the south and central areas of Trinidad.
Today marks a small but significant milestone for Island Growers, as we are now offering fresh mint at the retail level.
Many have minted articles about mint. Long and short, mint is a versatile herb. It could be used as a garnish, for flavour, sauces, jellies, in beverages or as a main ingredient in food. Some are of the view that it is high in antioxidant, aids in digestion and at times, have a cooling effect. Whatever you believe in, one thing is for sure, Island Growers mint is free from harmful chemicals or pesticides, grown using environmentally safe methods.
So Mint and Chill. Our mint will bring instant chill to your day. Will it make you a chill person? Don't get ahead of yourself, but it will make an awesome drink, jelly sauce or anything that requires fresh mint.
Feeling for some tea? Mint tea is not only refreshing, but easy to make. Take a bunch of Island Growers mint (amount varies to your liking), tear the leaves off the stems, place into a mug, tea pot or french press and add boiling water. Allow to steep for at least 3 minutes, longer if you like your tea strong. Strain or sip right away. Enjoy!
Pro Tip: Mint could be added to your regular black or green tea, just add the mint with your tea bags or tea leaves. Take it up a notch by adding a slice of fresh lemon.
Parsley, apart from its use as a garnish or for flavour, it’s also brewed into a tea, where some consider it a superfood in due to its high flavonoids and antioxidants. So garnish, flavour and now superfood? Make up your mind parsley!
Parsley is also rich in Vitamin C, beta carotene, folate and Vitamin B12. It’s uses are varied, but most agree that the best way to extract the medicinal properties of parsley is making it into a cup of tea. Today being #InternationalTeaDay, it’s a good day to try some parsley tea!
To make parsley tea, simple place between two (2) and 4 (four) tablespoons of fresh parsley in a tea infuser (amount varies according to your taste or need), place in your cup and pour water (boiling) over it. Allow to steep or draw for at least 5 mins or until desired. Sip and enjoy!
(Tip: add honey or a squeeze of citrus such as fresh lemon)
Pro Tip: Island Growers parsley are grown without the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides. By using natural and/or organic pest control methods, we enable a healthy and true farm to table product. Also, our parsley are picked fresh, so go ahead and steep away knowing you are brewing a healthy cup of tea!