Fresh herbs are a wonderful way to add flavor to foods without adding a lot of salt, sugar or fat. A small amount perks up the flavor in recipes while providing an excellent source of natural antioxidants and many anti-microbial substances that help keep our food safe.
Some Ideas for Fresh Herbs
- Use fresh leaves in the preparation of soups and herbal sauces
- Chopped, fresh herb leaves can enhance fruit salads and flavor popular drinks
- Selective herbs can be used to enhance the flavor and taste of vegetable, chicken, fish and lean meat dishes.
When Cooking with Fresh Herbs
Some herbs can be added early on and some should be held to the end.
The more delicate herbs need to be added a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on the food before it’s served. Basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, and mint are considered delicate.
The less delicate herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, and thyme, can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Here are some additional tips from Jerry Traunfeld, the author of The Herbfarm Cookbook and The Herbal Kitchen, for enjoying herbs in YOUR kitchen:
- Only remove twiggy, wiry or woody parts of herbs. It’s OK to chop up soft stems.
- Avoid over-chopping herbs. A “chopped” herb, according to Traunfeld, would measure between 1/8- and 1/4-inch across.
- Stiff rosemary branches work wonderful as skewers. Remove the leaves at the lower portion and cut the lower tip at an angle to aid piercing the food.
- For great flavor, toss cooked pasta with a couple of tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley.
- Fresh spearmint complements both sweet and savory flavors.
- Try sprinkling dill on cooked or roasted cauliflower.
- Lemon thyme works well with spring vegetables and seafood.
- When cutting basil use a very sharp knife to avoid bruising it.
- Unless a recipe specifies otherwise, it means sweet basil when it calls for basil.
Keeping Fresh Herbs Fresh
- Loosely wrap herbs in a damp paper towel, then seal in a zip-top plastic bag filled with air. Refrigerate for up to five days. Check herbs daily, as some of them lose their flavor after a couple of days.
- Store herbs bouquet-style when in bunches: Place, stems down, in a jar with water covering 1 inch of the stem ends, enclose in a large zip-top plastic bag, and change the water every other day. Most herbs will keep for up to a week this way.
- Many supermarkets carry herb plants in their produce sections. Snip off as much as you need, and the plant will last for weeks or even months.
- To revive limp herbs, trim 1/2 inch off the stems, and place in ice water for a couple of hours.
- Wash herbs just before using; pat dry with a paper towel.
- In most cases, heat kills the flavor of fresh herbs, so they’re best when added to a dish at the end.
Getting Familiar with Fresh Herbs
I recently stumbled across a great article from Cooking Light, called 11 Herbs Every Cook Should Use. If provides a brief overview of some of my favorite cooking herbs, along with ideas for use and links to recipes. Check it out! Recipes
When Substituting Fresh Herbs for Dried Herbs
A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use of a dried herb. When substituting, you’ll often be more successful substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs, rather than the other way around. For example, think potato salad with fresh vs. dried parsley. I hope you enjoy some fresh herbs in your cooking today! Image Credit Are you or someone you love looking for assistance in the Canton, Ohio area with nutrition planning? At Mercy we work with individuals of all ages and with a variety of health needs to plan and implement health diets designed to improve health and overall well-being. For more information, contact Mercy’s outpatient nutrition services today. Call 330-588-4854.