Know Your Herbs

Fresh Herbs: Generally, chop herbs just before using since the volatile oils which give them their flavor dissipate quickly. Usually herbs are added at the end of cooking, just before serving.

Dried Herbs: To bring out the flavor of dried herbs (or powdered and flake spices), add them to your sauté pan with olive oil and let them simmer for a minute or so before stirring them into the rest of the ingredients in the pan. This will greatly increase the amount of flavor and aroma in your dried herbs. Keep in mind it takes much more volume of fresh herbs than dried ones to get the same density of flavor but it is a much more pleasing flavor.


 

Basil: This annual requires lots of heat and sun. It’s the perfect summer herb, and goes well with all the summer vegetables, as well as cheeses, chicken, pasta, rice, and eggs. The leaves bruise very easily so don’t wash or chop them until just before you need them. Add at the end of cooking.

(Thai) Basil: This type basil is not typically eaten raw because cooking releases the intense flavor. It is used in stir-fries and spicy soups.

Bay Leaf: Unlike other herbs, bay’s flavor is more alluring dried than fresh. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a saucer and leave them in a cool dry place, uncovered, for about a week, or up to two weeks if weather is humid. The dried leaves will remain flavorful for up to six months in a tightly closed glass jar. It is one of those ingredients that add depth to the flavor of soups and stews.

Chives: Chives bruise easily when cutting or chopping so use a very sharp knife. They go well in egg dishes, potatoes, and fish and do well in savory baked goods like scones and biscuits. For any use other than baking, add at the end of cooking.

Cilantro: These are the leaves from the coriander plant. It is used in Mexican dishes such as guacamole and in curries, salads, and vegetable dishes from Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisine. Heat destroys the flavor of cilantro, so add the chopped leaves to hot dishes at the last moment.

Dill: Unless baking with it, add at the end of cooking. Rinse thoroughly just before using, it wilts quickly after being in water. Dill adds fresh green flavor to cabbage, cauliflower and root crops like carrots and beets. Fresh dill is a natural with fish, potatoes and cauliflower, eggs, tomatoes, any salad or dressing. Chop and add for a great tuna salad.

Ginger, Yellow: The most nutritious of gingers, much more so than white ginger. Peel then fine chop for stir-fries and meat marinades. You can freeze ginger as is then grate or chop while still frozen.

Horseradish: It has a hot, sinus-clearing bite that isn’t obvious until it is grated or ground. Be careful not to get a nose full. Vinegar stops the release of the volatile oils and helps stabilize the flavor. Because it loses pungency as it cooks, add the horseradish toward the end. Combine ketchup or chili sauce with grated horseradish and you have homemade cocktail sauce. Wrap in a damp towel and then a dry one and refrigerate.

Lavender: It is best known as an essential oil which is both antibacterial and antiseptic, but is also calming to the nerves. It has a refreshingly clean aroma. As a culinary herb, a little goes a long way. Lavender is great in marinades and in baked goods. Use only Tuscan or Provence varieties of lavender for cooking – the others are somewhat bitter tasting. It needs another week or so drying before storing in glass, if you don’t use it by then in cooking. If you don’t want to cook with it, dry then crumble the buds off the stalk, put in a cloth bag in your clothing drawer.

Lavender Sugar: Remove the dried buds from the stalks. Blend or process with 4 times their weight in sugar. Spread out to dry for a few hours before pouring into air-tight jars. It can be used to flavor ice cream, pound cake, shortbread cookies but use cautiously – it can be potent.

Mint: We grow spearmint. It is used in Asian, Thai and Middle Eastern cuisine. Mix with yogurt and honey to taste to make a dressing for fruit salad (garnish with sprigs of mint and pomegranate seeds, and you’ve got something special)! Mix with yogurt and salt to taste as a sauce for falafels. Use as a garnish on desserts, or steep in hot water, sweeten to taste and enjoy as tea. It works perfectly with limes, lemons, coconut, bulgar, wheat, yogurt, lamb, and cucumber. As is the case with most fresh herbs, avoid cutting or tearing the leaves until just before using them because the volatile oils dissipate quickly.

Oregano: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, oregano has the highest antioxidant potency of all herbs. Ounce for ounce, oregano is one of the most antioxidant dense foods, having 42 times the antioxidant activity as apples and 4 times more than blueberries. Unlike some other fresh herbs, oregano maintains its big flavor when cooked. In fact, it can easily overpower a dish. Its flavor works best with other flavorful ingredients like olives, capers, lemon, hot peppers, and garlic.

Parsley, Italian: Store by trimming the bottom edges, put in a jar of water in the fridge like a bouquet. Besides being flexible and adding a bit of green flavor to any dish, fresh parsley makes dried herbs seem a little fresher and makes other fresh herbs go further.

Rosemary: Keep in plastic bags in the refrigerator or stems in water on the kitchen counter. One chef describes the flavor as ‘resinous’, spicy, uplifting, and forceful. It’s one of those herbs that can definitely be over-done. It is a great choice for marinades and for roasting with meats or in stews. It also works well in baked goods such as yeast breads, biscuits and muffins. Try dropping whole stems in broth, soup, or stew then removing when desired flavor is reached.

Rosemary Skewers (assuming the wasps that have built nests in the rosemary bushes will share): Occasionally, chefs will order them from us to use just like you would a bamboo skewer for BBQ’ing meat or vegetables on the grill. The rosemary flavor imparted goes particularly well with lamb. Keep the skewers in a glass of water as if they were a bouquet until use. Pierce the meat or veggie (pepper, onion, squash, potato, etc.) with a metal skewer or like tool, then thread onto the rosemary skewer and proceed as usual. Separate meats and veggies on individual skewers according to how quickly they cook.

Sage: It has a great depth of flavor. It is perfect stirred into hearty winter soups or stuffed under the skin of poultry. It is a traditional seasoning used in holiday stuffings.

Savory: It’s a perfect week to have savory included in the share. The peppery flavor enhances beans and goes very well with cabbage or kale.

Sorrel: Such a distinctive favor. Add to salad or use in sauces with butter and/or cream. Chop and add at the end. Many cookbooks have a recipe or 2 for sorrel sauce, particularly good with fish and omelets. High in oxalic acid and should be eaten in moderation. High in vitamin A, calcium, and magnesium.

Tarragon: Known best for its role in French cooking, tarragon leaves should be stripped off the stem just before you use them. Generally, the leaves are chopped and added to a dish near the end of cooking otherwise much of the flavor will be lost.

Thyme: Can be kept in plastic bags in the refrigerator or stems in water on the kitchen counter. Thyme’s amazing flavor works in more dishes than any other herb just as long as you match its quantity with the robustness of the dish. Thyme’s flavor is very sturdy so it can be added at any point in the cooking.