During the month of July, our house was filled with Southern home-grown fruit. From our own garden, we had ripe cantaloupe and plump figs, and from the South Florida farm of a neighbor’s relatives, we had platanos burros (bananas), Russell avocados, and the national fruit of Cuba, mamey. From the surplus of fruit I made fig jam, figs filled with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto, fig tarts with honey, cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto, guacamole, avocado remoulade, an adapted version of plátanos maduros (fried sweet plantains) using the bananas fried in coconut oil, banana cookies, banana muffins, and a smoothie. I also experimented a little with the mamey, puréeing and flavoring it with the same ingredients as this sweet potato dish. We ate some of all that fruit plain and simple too, most often for breakfast. It was a good month.
In addition to the fruit, our garden is still producing lots of herbs. Until the brutal heat of the last couple of weeks, I was filling a large 6-quart steel mixing bowl with basil I’d trim about every ten days. When I harvest that much basil, I don’t always use all of it immediately, and it turns black quickly when refrigerated. I came across a post that suggested keeping basil in fresh water and it occurred to me, why not do the same thing for all the herbs? Because I used to keep all the herbs I harvest in the second refrigerator that came with the rental house, I sometimes forgot to use them before they expired. This way, with the herbs visible all the time and well-preserved, they’re ready and waiting to brighten whatever I’m cooking.
To keep things economical, I used glassware saved from used-up candles and a rectangular white ceramic serving platter we already owned. Since I’ll be looking at the herbs every day, I wanted to create a simple, clean and appealing setting. Whether vases, mason jars, or other similar unused glassware, whatever is available will serve the purpose fine. I filled each jar about three-quarters full with filtered water, removed any leaves from the very bottom of each stem to keep the leaves out of the water, and arranged each herb in its own jar. For best upkeep of the herbs, just keep them away from direct sunlight or indirect heat, and change the water when it loses its clarity. Hopefully, having herbs in sight and at your fingertips will inspire lots of creativity in your kitchen.