Herbs are the leaf and stem portions of thousands of plants, many of which have culinary uses. They’re commonly available fresh, dried, and ground. Most popular herbs are easy to grow and many gardeners and cooks prefer a fresh homegrown supply.
Commonly used herbs include:
Anise, basil, bay leaf, caraway seed, celery seed, chives, chervil, cilantro/coriander, cumin/seed, dill, fennel, fenugreek, lemon grass, marjoram, mustard seed, oregano, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, sesame seed, tarragon, thyme.
- Fresh herbs are always best and will taste very different from their dried and ground counterparts.
- Most fresh herbs can be refrigerated for a week or more. Wrap in a damp paper towel, place in plastic bag.
- Use dried varieties within six months. They will keep longer, but with a gradual loss of flavor.
- Blanch and then freeze fresh leaves in a plastic bag. Remove and crush with a rolling pin and return to freezer. Use as needed.
- Dry stems and leaves by hanging upside down in a warm room for two days. Alternatively, place in microwave and set at defrost. Watch closely to avoid over-drying. Warming in the oven tends to reduce the flavor.
- To check for freshness, crush dried herbs between two fingers. If there is either no aroma or a grassy smell, discard.
- Add fresh herbs in the last 5-7 minutes of cooking to preserve flavor. Include dried leaves in the final hour.
- Once frozen, the leaves cannot be used for garnishing.
- When measuring older dried herbs, it may be necessary to increase quantity in a recipe.
- Instead of chopping, try snipping fresh leaves with kitchen shears.
- Stems are flavorful additions to long-cooking soups.
- Substitute dried herbs for fresh in a 1:3 ratio (rosemary is an exception; you can use a 1:2 ratio)