How to Add Fresh-Cut Herbs to Your Meal

There is nothing like fresh-cut herbs to add interesting new flavors to your meals. Be adventurous—try different herbs with different foods. Some herbs are pungent, so you may want to try small amounts at first, then gradually increase the quantities to a level you like. If a recipe calls for a dried herb, use three times the amount of the fresh herb. Because of their different textures and colors, herbs also make attractive gar­nishes.

You might enjoy growing your own herbs. To prepare herbs for storage, harvest plants growing in the garden just after the dew dries in the morning, but before it gets hot. Cut the stems long and tie them together. Place the bouquet of herbs upside down in a paper bag and hang it to dry where there is good air circulation. Leave it for several days. When the bouquet is completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems. Store the dried leaves in plastic bags or in a jar with a tight lid. Sage, basil, oregano, thyme, and marjoram dry well.

Try some of the following herbs in your favorite recipes:

Chives, a perennial, form a neat 8- to 10-inch-high border, but can also be grown in a small pot because they don’t spread rapidly. The slender leaves will stay green all winter in mild climates, and the plant will produce lovely lavender flower heads. Their long green stems resemble very small green onion tops. Chopped, they add spirit to mashed pota­toes or omelets.

Dill is popular in salads and as a garnish for fish or poultry dishes. The delicate leaves should be harvested when the plants are young and tender. You can harvest the seed heads when they are in bloom and use the seeds to season vinegar for marinated cucumber salad.

Marjoram is a small, compact plant that’s easy to grow and goes well with meats, vegetables, and soups. It tastes best when its leaves are harvested before the plant blooms.

Mint comes in a seemingly endless variety of flavors: pep­permint, spearmint, apple, orange, and even chocolate. Mint leaves make an excellent garnish for iced beverages, fruit, and puddings. Mint grows well in moist, somewhat shady locations.

Rosemary is a small, tender, evergreen shrub. In fact, it is sometimes sold in pots during the holiday season to be used as miniature Christmas trees. It’s good in chicken, fish, and pasta dishes.

Sage comes in several varieties and will usually survive mild winters outdoors. It goes well with poultry or pork and adds a festive look to a dish. The most common variety of sage has grayish green leaves, but some sage varieties have attractive variegated white/green or green/purple leaves. Pineapple sage has bright green leaves and a nice pine­apple fragrance. It also produces small scarlet flower spikes. However, pineapple sage tends to be intolerant of temperature extremes.

Sweet basil is a favorite annual that comes in several vari­eties, with heights that vary from 1 to 2 feet. You might also want to try lemon basil, with its small, delicate, light green leaves. Basil is most flavorful if harvested before the plant blooms, but it’s quite pretty when in bloom. Basil is a versatile herb and can be used to season meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, or soups. As with most herbs, you harvest the leaves.

Thyme and oregano are low-spreading, perennial herbs. Thyme needs well-drained soil and makes a pretty border or ground cover. The flavor of thyme and oregano varies somewhat, depending on the variety, but all varieties enhance the taste of soups, stews, and many vegetables. Fresh oregano is great for pasta dishes.

Filed Under: Food & Cooking


About the Author: Leona Kesler is a head-chef at a very popular food restaurant in New York. Also she is a blogger who shares her experiences, tips, and other informative details about food and cooking. Her recipes are featured on many magazines.

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