There is comfort in stasis, in trees that are barren, and fields that are resting.
In those frozen, darker times, time is generous. You can make it your own and, with inexpensive switch-button illumination, it’s easy for everyone to make more of it.
Then comes the notion of soft rains falling—not yet falling, but soon, way too soon.
A frantic anticipation of springtime deadlines sets in: seeds must be ordered, seedlings started, ground prepared, planting schedules established. Time is no longer your own.
Fall harvest is the other time Mother Nature snaps a whip. Sometimes she offers extensions, but not always, and not any that you can count on.
Once the food from the garden is harvested, most of the work shifts to the kitchen, my first home. Cleaned and prepped, then blanched and frozen, dried, canned, or fermented, there’s a lot of work to be done, but the payoff is greater.
During the unpressured off-season months, all that you need to do to enjoy your hard work is open a jar or the freezer door.
I love harvest time, not only because the edible rewards are great but because it’s the time of putting the garden to bed and the beginning of time that is little less busy, and a little more interior.
Sorry to say, however, that the necessary flip side of the harvest doll—with her cornucopia of who knows what all—is the spring-planting doll. She is lean and holds an even bigger whip, snapping you out of winter reverie. It’s time to hustle; there are deadlines that can’t be missed.
Salted Herbs are a harvest bounty that justify my perennial springtime planting anxiety. This preserved seven-herb, finely chopped mirepoix medley—salted just as you would do to make sauerkraut—keeps for months in the refrigerator, ready to work seasoning magic in soups and stews and other savory foods.
Save the parsley, all of the herbs used to make Salted Herbs are hardy and return year after year. Rosemary is the most cold-averse of the group, but if grown in a pot that can be carted inside for the winter, it too will give you year-round flavor with little work. In Richmond, Virginia, where I live, rosemary makes it through most winters, but not every winter.
Even if herbs, perennial or otherwise, took more work than they do, which isn’t much, I would still grow them: Their distinct aromas, rustled forth with a sweep of the hand or a pinch or a slap, diverse leaf shapes and sizes, and spectrum of verdancy from Zen-like sage to first-green-of-spring chives, are my new set of steel guitar strings, my new Kolinsky sable brush.
According to blogger (of The Healthy Foodie), cookbook author, and native Quebeçois Sonia Lacasse, Salted Herbs are a seasoning staple in most Quebecois households. I’d never heard of it until coming across it in her book Paleo Home Cooking, a book I edited and enjoyed working on in part because Sonia has a nice way with words and in part because of the chance it gave me to learn about some Quebeçois foods I was not familiar with. (And Sonia was great to work with; that doesn’t hurt either.)
If you’re looking for something new to grow in your garden this season, and a new project to undertake at harvest-time, add the seven herbs you’ll need for Salted Herbs to your seed or seedling shopping list.
If you think you’re too busy to garden this year, and can’t meet springs planting deadlines, simplify and do just an herb garden this season so that you can reap Salted Herbs.
If you’re prone to early springtime gardening anxiety, don’t succumb. Persevere and keep your eye on the prize. The pay off will make you forget all about the angst you experienced months earlier—that is, right about now.
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Notes: My use of the wording “soft rains falling” was inspired by the title of a poem by Sara Teasdale: “There Will Come Soft Rains.” Ray Bradbury features the poem in his short story of the same name, which is how I came across it.
I refer to slapping an herb to arouse it. Explanation: I once saw a bartender in a small lounge in New York City lay a large leaf of fresh basil in the palm of one hand and slap it with his other hand before using it to garnish the cocktail he was making for me.
Here is Sonia Lacasse’s recipe for magical Salted Herbs. Come this fall, I’ll share a recipe for a delicious yet incredibly simple soup I created to showcase Salted Herbs. Still not convinced this blend is worth the trouble to make? Let Sonia convince you. To quote her in Paleo Home Cooking: “Once you get a taste, you won’t know how you were able to live without them for so long.”
1½ cups (90 g) finely chopped fresh parsley
1½ cups (340 g) finely chopped leeks (1 medium)
1 cup (140 g) peeled and finely diced carrots (about 2 medium)
1 cup (100 g) finely chopped white onion (1 small)
1 cup (100 g) finely chopped celery (2 medium ribs)
½ cup (15 g) finely chopped fresh chives
¼ cup (8 g) finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
¼ cup (8 g) finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
¾ cup (210 g) fine ground sea salt (Sonia prefers Himalayan sea salt)
- Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until very well combined, then gently pound your herbs with a pestle or large wooden spoon, just to bruise them a little and get some moisture out. You don’t want to completely destroy them, just get them to release a little bit of their water and flavor.
- Transfer the herbs to an airtight container with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. Give them a good stir every day for the next 7 days, then store in the refrigerator in glass mason jars for up to 6 months.
(Recipe and photography from Paleo Home Cooking by Sonia Lacasse. Reprinted with the express permission of Victory Belt Publishing, victorybelt.com.)
P.S. (October 2016). The soup recipe that I promised to deliver in this posting is now published on my blog. It’s a wonderful way to showcase salted herbs. Click here for the recipe, if you’re interested.