Herbs Are Your Friend

by Lisa Y

Occasionally we are fortunate to have the option of adding an herb pack to our Bountiful Baskets. One thing I noticed the last time we had this offering was the hesitation of so many who have never used fresh herbs, either because of fear of the unknown, or because they’ve never had fresh herbs available to them.

In this “mini tutorial I’m going to try to “unlock the mystery” of fresh herbs, give suggestions on using them, and give a couple of tips for drying fresh herbs to use later.

Herbs come from aromatic plants whose leaves, flowers, or stems are used to flavor foods and should be a staple in every kitchen. Though dried herbs are commonly used in the home kitchen, the flavor and aroma of herbs are altered when they are dried, therefore, it takes more to do the same job as half the amount of fresh. When using fresh herbs it is important to add them to the end of your cooking process as prolonged cooking can destroy the flavor.

So let’s talk about the herbs that are most commonly used:

Basil

Basil, which originated in India is most commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and can also be found in many Columbian and Asian dishes as well. Though there are well over 100 varieties of basil in this post we are referring to Sweet Basil.

Description:
Highly aromatic. Mild, slightly peppery taste.

Suggestions for use:
Pesto, Margarita pizza, tomato sauce, toss into salads , add to soups,(mild) beans, stews, sauces, and some veggies.

Storage options:
1. Place in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. Remove leaves from stems, place in a bowl or jar and cover in vinegar or olive oil. (I’ve never tried this one, I can’t swear to the results)

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dry remove leaves from the stem and place into an airtight container. To use, crumble leaves and add to dish.
*I don’t recommend using the microwave to dry herbs though many do use that method. When using the microwave to dry herbs you are essentially heating out the essential oils that give the herbs their flavor.

Quick recipe:

Easy 2.5 Pesto 4 You

I don’t usually measure anything but I figured it would be helpful for those who don’t do a lot of cooking. By the way, don’t let the name of the pesto fool you. The reason I call it Easy 2.5 Pesto 4 You is because it’s the easiest way to remember the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cp. Grated Romano cheese (you can sub. Parmesan if you prefer)
  • ½ cp. Roasted pine nuts (you can sub. walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, whatever floats your boat)
  • 4 lg. cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. FRESH ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place basil, cheese, garlic, and nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Process on high approx. 1 min. or until nuts are partially ground. Slowly add olive oil while processor is still running. Open bowl, scrape sides and process again until all ingredients are incorporated.

Notes

Store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Suggested Uses:
1. Top grilled chicken breast with 1 tbs. pesto top with mozzarella or provolone and place in oven until cheese has melted. Serve over hot pasta.
2. Toss into hot pasta.
3. Spread on crostini.

*When storing pesto the oil tends to separate. Not to worry, just give it a quick stir and it’s still good.

Chives
Chives are the most delicate member of the onion family . One of the “fines herbes” in the culinary world because it does not have an overwhelming flavor and are often used as garnish as well as for adding flavor. Commonly found in French cuisine.

Description:
Mild onion flavor.

Suggestions for use:
Add to eggs, poultry, fish, shellfish and potatoes. Use as a garnish for soups and stews.

Storage options:
1. Wrap in a damp paper town and place in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. To freeze chives wash, allow to dry completely, chop and store in a heavy duty freezer bag.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dry , chop and place into an airtight container.

Recipe tip: Add fresh or dried chives just before serving so you do not lose the onion flavor.

Marjoram
Marjoram is commonly found in Belgian, Italian, and French cuisine and often found in bouquet garni (bundles of herbs used to flavor stock and soups).

Description:
Very similar in taste to thyme but sweeter and often substituted for oregano. Unlike other herbs, marjoram is stronger in flavor when dried.

Suggestions for use:
Add to sauces, chowders and soups, toss in with sautéed vegetables.

Storage options:
1. Wrap in a damp paper town and place in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. To freeze fresh marjoram spread on a cookie sheet and freeze whole. Once frozen, strip leaves from stem and store in freezer in a freezer bag.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dried strip leaves from stem and place into an airtight container. To use, crumble leaves and add to dish.
Recipe tip: Add fresh marjoram to sautéed carrots, eggplant, or mushrooms just before serving.

Mint
Mint is one of the largest groups in the herb family. Mint is one of those herbs that doesn’t play well with others so it really needs to “stand alone” in order to enjoy it’s depth of flavor. And remember, when using fresh mint, less is more. Commonly found in Moroccan, Iranian, Greek, and Israeli cuisine.

Description:
Highly aromatic with very strong flavor.

Suggestions for use:
Use with fruit dishes, veggies, soups, sauces, desserts, game and domestic meats, chocolate, as a garnish and some beverages.

Storage options:
1. Place in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. To freeze mint remove leaves from the stem and place in an airtight container.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dry , remove leaves from the stem and place into an airtight container. To use crumble leaves and add to dish.

Recipe tips: Add fresh mint to ice tea, hot chocolate, or mixed drinks. Add fresh mint sprigs to ice cream, gelato, or cake as a garnish.

Oregano
Oregano is also known as Wild Marjoram and is most often found in Italian and Greek cuisine.

Description:
Pungent smell and peppery flavor.

Suggestions for use:
Use in meat marinades, sauces, soups and stews, and fish.

Storage options:
1. Place in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. Place in an open Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel.
3. Place whole stems in a glass of water with a plastic bag over it.
4. To freeze oregano rinse and completely air dry. Remove leaves from the stem and place in an airtight container.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dried , remove leaves from the stem and place into an airtight container. To use, crumble leaves and add to dish.

Recipe tip: Add fresh oregano to homemade pizza sauce

Rosemary
Rosemary comes from a wild growing bush found in warm, dry climates around the world.

Description:
Highly aromatic with an almost piney smell. Best when used fresh because when it’s dried it not only loses some of its flavor it also becomes very hard and unpleasant to chew. Another common herb found in bouquet garni, rosemary is most commonly found in German and French cuisine. In America we most often associate rosemary with poultry (especially that Thanksgiving turkey).

Suggestions for use:
Stuffing , roast meats, flavoring barbequed meats and seafood.

Storage options:
1. Place in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. Place whole stems in a glass of water in the refrigerator.
3. To freeze rosemary rinse and completely air dry. Place on a cookie sheet until frozen. Strip leaves from stem and store in an airtight container.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dried , remove leaves from the stem and place into an airtight container. To use, chop leaves and add to dish.

Recipe tips: Add fresh rosemary to marinades to vinaigrettes. Use a bundle of long stemmed rosemary as a mop brush when adding sauce to meats while on the grill. Add 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary to lemon cookie dough.

Tarragon
Tarragon is one of the “fines herbes” in the culinary world because it does not have an overwhelming flavor. A mainstay in Belgian and French cuisine. Fresh tarragon is much better than dried tarragon. Dried tarragon can taste like old, dry straw if it gets too old.

Description:
Slight licorice smell and taste.

Suggestions for use:
Use in poultry, fish, sauces, and egg dishes.

Storage options:
1. Place in barely damp paper towel in a sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. To freeze tarragon rinse and completely air dry. Place stems on a baking sheet and place in freezer. Once frozen strip leaves from stem and store in an airtight freezer container.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dried , remove leaves from the stem and place into an airtight container. To use, crumble leaves and add to dish.

Recipe tip: Sauté cleaned, shelled shrimp with butter and garlic over medium heat. Season with sea salt and white pepper to taste. Just before the shrimp is done sprinkle with chopped fresh tarragon and serve over hot pasta or rice.

Thyme
Thyme is one of the oldest and most commonly used herb. A mainstay in Belgian, Columbian and French cuisine.

Description:
Very strong flavor but not overpowering. Quite similar to sage often used in bouquet garni.

Suggestions for use:
Complements most savory dishes.

Storage options:
1. Place in a sealed Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.
2. Place stems in a glass of water in the refrigerator.
3. To freeze thyme rinse and completely air dry. Place stems on a baking sheet and place in freezer. Once frozen strip leaves from stem and store in an airtight freezer container.

Drying: Tie stems together and hang in a dry place. Check occasionally for dryness. Once the herb is dried , remove leaves from the stem and place into an airtight container. To use, crumble leaves and add to dish.

Recipe tip: Add to stuffing, sauces, meat and seafood marinades.

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10 Responses to “Herbs Are Your Friend”

  1. Renee says:

    I did the pick up on 5/25 in mustang and there was some type of root vege in my organic box. I thought it was garlic or ginger but it has no flavor. Can you please tell me what it is.

  2. Victoria says:

    Your directions on herbs is great, but I noticed that a lot of people do not know which herb is which. If you can you might label the picture so that people can identify them.

  3. Carin says:

    Judith, that sounds like Fennel.

  4. Carin says:

    Judith, that sounds like Fennel!

  5. Whitney says:

    Judith, It’s fennel.

  6. Judith palmer says:

    I received a vegetable or herb n the organic basket Saturday. I don’t know what it is or how to use it. It looks like a celery or leek base with fine leaves that look similar to a. Dill family. Can you help me figure out what it is?

  7. LisaY says:

    Kamela, you are most welcome.
    Reta, I’m with you LOVE fresh herbs.
    Suanna you’re right, it does.

  8. KamelaRaines says:

    Thanks for the info on marjoram …. I’ve always wondered wha it was!

  9. Reta Knott says:

    I just wanted to let you know I would welcome fresh herbs to the basket. Even if you can not use them all you can dry them in the oven on very low heat and use them later. Or if that is to hard throw them in the freezer in a zip lock bag.

  10. Suanna says:

    Thanks for all the tips. Tarragon also adds a great variety to potato salad.

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