Discover more from The Weekly Dirt with Jessica Damiano
How to freeze and dry herbs
And where do fruit flies come from?
If you’re new here, welcome! To ensure you never miss an issue of The Weekly Dirt, click here to subscribe 👇
We’re running late today because I’ve been having the mother of all computer problems this week. I can’t seem to write more than a paragraph or two without my screen freezing and having to reboot, which is turning two or three hours of work into — well, the hours turned into days.
🍅 I’ve been on the hunt for photos of mutant tomatoes (those that develop with horns or noses or something unmentionable!) for an upcoming AP column, so if you grew one and have a photo to share, please send it along ASAP.
I harvested the parsley and basil, removed each leaf individually (which took nearly as long as writing this newsletter is taking this week), rinsed them well and set them out in a single layer on paper towels all over my kitchen counters and table for a couple of days to dry (but not dry out). Then I put them into zipper-top plastic bags and placed them in the freezer.
Freezing herbs when they’re damp would result in solid chunks that would have to be chiseled whenever you want to use a piece. But allowing them to dry after rinsing means you’ll be able to reach into your bag for individual leaves, which is not only more convenient but it’s more appealing to find a leaf in your food than herb crumbs.
This works with any flat-leaved herb — basil, parsley, cilantro, etc. The needled type, like rosemary, thyme, etc., are best rinsed and left out to dry until they’re crunchy (you can also use a food dehydrator if you have one), then placed into glass jars and stored at room temperature.
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: I picked tomatoes last week and put them on my kitchen table to ripen. Now they're swarming in fruit flies. Where did they come from, and how can I get rid of them? —Brittany Johnson, Newport News, Virginia
DEAR BRITTANY: It may seem like a mystery, but fruit flies don’t actually appear out of nowhere.
They have a super-strong fruit-seeking instinct that senses ripening fruit. As long as there are a couple of fruit flies outside your house, they will find a way in and zero in on your freshly-picked tomatoes — or the bananas on your counter.
The insects then make themselves at home and begin reproducing like crazy. Sometimes, they deposit their microscopic eggs on fruit at the grocery store before you even bring it home so you get a free gift with your purchase.
Then, either way, those eggs will turn into full-fledged adults ready to breed in as little as a week, so it’s important to eradicate them quickly.
There are all sorts of traps and contraptions -- and chemical sprays -- available for purchase that claim to get the job done. Some do, some don't. But no matter: You can save yourself the expense (and/or exposure) by making a homemade trap like I do. All you need is a sheet of paper, a tall jar, tape and apple juice, cider or cider vinegar.
Add about an inch of cider vinegar or juice to the jar. You can also add a 2-inch-long piece of ripe banana for good measure, but this isn't necessary.
Roll a sheet of paper into a funnel and insert it into the jar, keeping the opening at the bottom above the liquid. I used an 8 1/2-by-11 piece of printer paper. Adjust its width so that the top of the funnel fills the mouth of your jar.
Adhere the funnel to the mouth of the jar with tape to eliminate any gaps.
Place the jar in the area of activity.
Fruit flies will flock to the jar, fly in and become trapped. Left undisturbed, they eventually will drown, but I periodically bring the jar outdoors, remove the funnel and allow the flies to escape.
This usually resolves the problem in about two days.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
If you live in a climate that gets frosts and freezes, it’s time to start transitioning vacationing houseplants back indoors.
Move them into a shady spot for a couple of days, then check thoroughly for pests and give them a good rinse before bringing them in. And even though spring is the best time to repot them, you can do it now if you feel it’s necessary.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Reader Jennifer Richmond writes: “My basil plants continue to flourish. What joy to cut them and bring them into the kitchen. Such a distinctive earthy smell. Speaks of summer…”
And Ken Axe says, “These plants are taller than I am,” adding that he’s already harvested several quarts of green beans.
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next (bonus points if you’re in the picture!)
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
This week: Annuals are the loyal friends every gardener can use, especially as the season winds down. Here’s why I learned to love them.
One week prior: Tips for dealing with flooded plants
You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
📚📺🎵 Random things I enjoyed this week
I had a great time with a friend at the Squeeze and Psychedelic Furs concert at Radio City Music Hall on Friday night. (She and I also attended our very first concert together when we were about 12 years old — the Bee Gees at Madison Square Garden!)
I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve never seen “The Princess Bride,” but I remedied that this week and absolutely loved it.
I watched "Hijack" on AppleTV, a miniseries starring Idris Elba about passengers on a hijacked plane. It's excellent!
This newsletter is member-supported
This week’s newsletter was made possible by generous support from Cathy, Barbara Stroud, Elaine, Chrissy Shelley, Jeannine Fruda, Terri Donahue and Loretta. THANK YOU!
I put a lot of effort into researching, writing and producing this newsletter every week, and I couldn’t do it without your support.
If you enjoy receiving The Weekly Dirt and value the information it contains, please consider “buying me a coffee!”
Let’s be friends! Follow me:
📧 How’m I doing?
I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.