DEAR SUN SPOTS: I love Mexican food and like to season it with fresh cilantro, but when I buy it at the grocery store, it goes bad so quickly. I’ve tried putting it in a glass of water on the counter or leaving it wrapped in plastic in the vegetable bin in the fridge. Neither of these attempts has worked. You must know some good tips to keep cilantro and other fresh herbs from wilting. — Sonja, Lewiston

ANSWER: I grow my own cilantro in pots outside and on the kitchen window sill, but even those efforts don’t work. The cilantro has a tendency to go to seed quickly or spoils before I can use it all. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve thrown cilantro into the compost bin. Then I actually took the time to do a little online research. I found this solution on the website, Store tender herbs like cilantro, mint and parsley by snipping off the stem ends and removing any discolored or wilted leaves. Transfer the herbs to a large, wide-mouth mason jar with an inch of water in the bottom. Seal the jar with the lid (if it fits over the top of the herbs), or cover the top of the jar with a plastic bag sealed with a rubber band. Store in the refrigerator. This really works well and has made me recall that this is the way my mom used to keep celery stalks fresh, too. Let me know if this works for you!

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I was at a restaurant the other day and heard two women with little kids talking about “Hobbitland” and that they were going there. It sounded fun. What is it? I gathered it was a good place for kids. — No name, no town

ANSWER: They were perhaps going on a hike! I haven’t been to what the Hallowell locals call “Hobbitland” yet. The proper name, Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead, is a nature preserve with a historical trail system and a non-traditional museum. Built in 1794, the museum was the former home of the Vaughan family for over 200 years. (There are no “hobbit houses.”)

According to the website at, Diana Vaughan Gibson and her husband, George, created a foundation to oversee Diana’s ancestral home, the 1794 Vaughan Homestead, and the adjacent 197-acre nature preserve, Vaughan Woods, which was created by her grandfather at the turn of the 20th century. The couple wanted to preserve the property for its historical, educational and environmental values.

Year-round programming for schools and groups takes place in and around the Homestead. While it functions as a house museum, the Homestead also continues to be lived in. Programs are offered at the Homestead throughout the year and cataloging the organization’s collection of historical papers and artifacts is ongoing.

Vaughan Woods is a beautiful example of the local landscape and a place where you will be inspired to take pictures, paint and simply hike the trails and contemplate nature. It’s open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. For more information and a trail map and parking directions, go to the website, To register for a tour, call 207-622-9831 or e-mail [email protected]

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