Blenders and food processors are efficient, but nothing beats the pure sensual pleasure of grinding herbs by hand. Each stroke of the pestle releases the essential oils that give herbs and spices their flavor, delighting your sense of smell and further enhancing the satisfaction of creating something with your own two hands. Mortars and pestles come in many materials, from wood to lava stone, but one of the simplest to maintain is marble.
Wipe away any residue left from previous grinding with a clean paper towel. Pay special attention to any carved nooks and crannies on your pestle’s handle.
Treat any stains from grinding deeply colored or very oily ingredients by dabbing them with a paper towel soaked in lemon juice or white vinegar. Do not allow the acid to sit on the stain.
Squirt a little bit of mild dish soap on a damp sponge or washcloth and rub it gently all over the pestle as well as on the inside and outside of the mortar.
Rinse the mortar and pestle in warm water until all of the soap has been removed. Make sure to rinse the inside of the mortar and the grinding end of the pestle especially well because soap residue can affect the flavor of whatever you grind next.
Dry your mortar and pestle thoroughly with a clean dish towel, or lay them out on a folded dishtowel to air dry.
Scrub your mortar out with dry rice to remove stubborn stains without using harsh abrasives, remembering to discard the rice afterward.
Do not soak your marble mortar and pestle in any type of acidic liquid or harsh chemical or you may damage the stone.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.