There’s always at least one bunch of cilantro in my refrigerator at all times. It’s my herb of choice, followed closely by mint. There are few Indian dishes that can go without a handful of my fresh little friend, whose zesty yet cooling brightness shines a light through all those warm spices.
Bren isn’t a huge fan though. Whenever I finish a dish with a flourish of this cool number, he says, “Oh so you’re adding a little soap?”. I used to think he was just being obstinate until I read this article about it being a genetic predisposition. Some people really do taste soap. I don’t. I taste my momma’s kitchen on Fridays when my dad would come home from the market bearing bags and cases of fruit and veg. We’d painstakingly wash the cilantro, dry it, pick out the leaves that looked like they’d seen better days, and then put them away.
Aha, but HOW did we put them away?
So many of you have asked me how to store herbs; my answer has always been to wash, dry, wrap in paper towel and then store in a plastic food storage bag. Right? Well that works for hardier herbs like parsley and mint. But cilantro? Well, she is a delicate flower (read that in a loonnnng New Orleans drawl please). Throw her in a food storage bag like yesterday’s news? She starts to pout, and then throws such a tantrum as to turn herself black, sludgy and unusable.
In a flash of inspiration a few weeks ago, I remembered how Mum would grab an old ice cream container (back then in Dubai, the local brand of ice cream, Kwality, came in plastic tubs which Mum would hoard for just this kind of purpose; she was ahead of her time! Look at how much these food storage containers cost now!), line it with paper towels, place the cilantro in one even layer, cover with another layer, and snap the box shut.
And so that’s just what I did. I snapped off the tougher stems, both because I don’t use them and also so that I could fit them into my container. It’s worth mentioning that I spin these herbs as dry as I can, and even, if I have the luxury of time and counterspace, leave them out to dry on a kitchen towel. Wet herbs go bad faster. But for this batch, I just spun them and boxed ‘em. Look at how good these leaves STILL look.
Now scroll back up to the first photo and look at the date on the sticker (another one of my favourite tricks: labeling everything with masking tape). I took this photo yesterday. This cilantro has lasted 3 weeks! Isn’t that amazing? Whenever I use some, I pull out any stems or leaves that are heading to that blackened stage, so they don’t contaminate the rest of the leaves, but I haven’t had to do that too often.