Food — Fresh Herbs Add Flavor To Everything

Add a fresh taste to dishes, for summer and all year

Fresh herbs add flavor to everything from cod to coffee.

Whether you grow them, buy them, marinate with them or use them for medicinal purposes herbs are extremely versatile—from the creeping thyme planted along walkways, which is meant to be stepped on and crushed so that it releases its distinctive scent, to the chocomint that adds flavor to a boring old cup of Joe.

Culinary herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, cilantro, lavender, rosemary and tarragon can be added to many varieties of salads, soups, sauces, marinades and rubs for meat and poultry, homemade sausage, egg dishes, appetizers, oils for dipping, and in some cases desserts and coffee. Herbs are relatively inexpensive to buy and even cheaper to grow. Making these plants even more attractive is that many of them are perennials, meaning they come back year after year if planted in an outdoor garden. Perennial herbs include chives, garlic chives, mint, horseradish, and thyme.

It’s important to note that all herbs—perennials and annuals—need to be cut back every so often. Herbs do better when they are used and do not go to seed or flower. The more you cut from an herb the more growth you will have.

Herbs don’t always have to be outdoors; if you don’t have a yard you might want to consider planting a small herb garden in a planter and keeping it in the kitchen on a windowsill. Most herbs thrive inside or outside and can be planted in clusters or groupings. And herbs planted indoors will flourish year-round as long as they are maintained.

The following is a list of herbs that can be used when cooking a variety of foods; however, it’s best not to be limited by this short list because there are many varieties of herbs available. 

Some perennial herbs, such as horseradish and many members of the mint family, are considered invasive, meaning they spread out in any garden and take over a larger space year after year; this is why it’s best to plant these herbs in a container. If planted directly in the soil these types of herbs will take over in a matter of two to three years. The UNH Cooperative recommends planting these invasive herbs in attractive containers and placing the containers in an appropriate spot in the garden.

“Other perennial herbs, such as rosemary and bay, are not hardy in New Hampshire. Grow these and other tender herbs in containers that can be set out in the garden during the frost-free growing season and over- wintered in a sunny indoor location,” according to the coop.

For those lacking a green thumb and patience, many varieties of fresh herbs can be found at the local farmers’ market and year-round at supermarkets. When cooking with fresh herbs follow the recipe instructions on the amount and always remember to chop the herbs fine, to ensure that all flavor is released into whatever you’re cooking. Also, if for some reason you need to use a dried herb, use less than what the recipe calls for. Dried herbs are more concentrated and can add too much flavor.

Fresh herbs store well for 5-7 days wrapped in a damp paper towel in the vegetable drawer; once they wilt or begin to slime, throw them away.

—Meg Haines 

How to use herbs

Herbs for poultry dishes

thyme • sage • oregano • rosemary • tarragon • lemon thyme

Herbs for fish

dill • parsley • fennel • garlic • bay • lemon basil

Herbs for vegetables

tarragon • dill • garlic • chives • savory • thyme • mint • basil • chervil

Herbs for meat dishes

rosemary • bay • oregano • marjoram • mint • parsley • sage • horseradish

Dessert herbs

angelica • mint • rose petals • rose hips

Cooking with herbs

Chives

Few herbs are as useful as chives, or as easy to grow and maintain. Use the green stems in a number of dishes or as a garnish. The flowers are edible, too. Use them as a decorative addition to vinegars, in salads, and in arrangements. They grow well in containers. Cut back often, chives will continue to grow inside or outside.  

Chive sour cream dip

1 cup sour cream

12 sprigs of chives, approximately 12 inches in length, washed, dried and chopped

Mix together and serve over baked potatoes.

Rosemary

This very aromatic herb has a wonderfully fresh pine-like scent. In the kitchen, use it with lamb, pork, poultry, carrots and peas. Complements chives, parsley and bay. Can be grown in containers. Melt butter with rosemary to dress freshly steamed red potatoes and peas or a stir-fried mixture of zucchini and summer squash. Crush leaves by hand or with a mortar and pestle before using. 

Roasted rosemary chicken with garlic

2 chicken breast halves with skin and bones 

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary 

10 large garlic cloves, peeled 

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup canned low-salt chicken broth 

Preheat oven to 475°F. Run fingers under skin of chicken breasts to loosen; rub 1/2 teaspoon rosemary under skin of each. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; place in medium ovenproof skillet. Toss garlic, oil and remaining one teaspoon rosemary in small bowl to coat. Arrange garlic around chicken. Drizzle any remaining oil mixture over chicken.

Roast chicken 15 minutes. Add broth to skillet. Continue to roast until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken and garlic to plates. Serve with potatoes on rice.

Basil

There is nothing like the smell of basil! Basil has so many uses: Italian foods, vinegars, fish, poultry, rice, mild vegetables, and in salads. There is no more useful herb. In a warm, south window, you can grow basil indoors during the winter.  

Homemade basil pesto

12 walnuts, shelled

2 tablespoons pine nuts  

1 tsp. coarse salt  

4 or 5 black peppercorns  

2 garlic cloves

1 to 3 tsp. anchovy paste (to taste)  

3 cups basil leaves  

4 oz grated parmesan cheese  

4 oz grated romano cheese or added parmesan cheese  

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Puree ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth. Serve over pasta. Can be stored covered up to three days in refrigerator.

 
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