Using herbs in your cooking is a great way to add a burst of fresh flavor and depth to your food! To get more flavor into your meals, start with fresh, quality ingredients. Don’t be afraid of spices! Whether you have an herb garden or you’re choosing herbs at the store, you should look for: a pleasant aroma (your nose knows!), bright color, and a crisp texture.
How to Prepare and Store Fresh Herbs
Save yourself from throwing out a soggy bundle of herbs later by taking a few minutes to clean and properly store them. They will last longer and be ready to use when you’re cooking.
1. Wash the herbs by submerging them in a bowl of cold water and swishing them around.
2. Blot the herbs dry with a paper towel.
Now, how you store herbs depends on the type you’ve purchased or harvested. They can be classified as delicate or hearty.
Delicate herbs are softer and have grass-like stems. Think parsley, mint, chives, cilantro, basil, and dill. They can be stored in the fridge but keep better at room temperature. They should sit with the stems in a small amount of water like a vase of flowers. Make sure to cut the stems at a diagonal. This type of cut allows the plant to stand at a point and exposes more of the stem’s surface area to the water for better absorption. Keep the water fresh by removing dead leaves and change the water daily.
Hearty herbs are tougher and have woody stems. Think rosemary, oregano, and thyme. These herbs should be kept dry in the fridge. Done. Period.
When to Add Herbs to a Recipe
Let’s take a look at how some herbs can enhance your recipes and benefit your health.
- Mint gives recipes even more vibrant appeal. Plus, mint can help with digestion.
- Cilantro. Slightly citrusy and grassy, cilantro is used frequently in salsas. Cilantro can also help brighten flavors and has a cooling effect that pairs well with spicy heat. It’s is also a source of fiber and iron, too.
- Rosemary, oregano, thyme, or sage at the start of your recipe to enhance the recipe’s depth of flavor.
- Sage is known for its strong aroma and earthy flavor. Sage is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s also robust enough to hold up to searing and simmering.
- Thyme has essential oils with tons of uses from homemade mosquito repellent to herbal tea for a sore throat. It’s packed with vitamin C and is also a good source of vitamin A. But in your cooking, thyme’s subtle, earthy, and slightly minty flavor pairs well with savory rosemary and oregano. It also goes with brighter tasting herbs like parsley and basil.
Top 10 Spices You Should Have in Your Kitchen:
- Oregano, Ginger, Basil, Garlic, Sage, Rosemary, Cumin, Cinnamon, Allspice, Black Pepper
- When consumed in moderation, many of these seasonings act as a secret weapon for your health, too!
Substituting Dried Herbs for Fresh
Many recipes call for dried herbs, but you can always swap in fresh. In general, dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh herbs. Use two to three times more fresh herbs than dried herbs. If you’re unsure, start with less and add more to taste.
What to do With Extra Herbs
When you buy herbs at the store, they frequently come in bundles that are larger than what your recipe calls for. Storing herbs appropriately helps them last longer, but may not help you solve the challenge of how to use them all up. Here are a couple of ideas on things you can make when you have just a few extra herbs.
Try Herbs in Cocktails
Make your beverages look extra special and taste flavorful with herbs. Muddle herbs like mint to release the aroma and flavor into a Mojito. Add it as a garnish to a Cranberry Collins. Herbs are also a lovely addition to simple syrup for a variety of cocktails and mocktails.
Flavored Butter, Anyone?
How about Bacon-Chive, Cilantro-Lime, Lemon-Rosemary? Any others you can think of?
There are so much fresh herbs can do to liven up the meals you already love. Having fresh herbs on hand in the kitchen can also encourage you to try new dishes that you might not have considered. So, pick out some leafy, bright, green herbs with a lovely smell and try them out!