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Fresh Herbs: Selection, Storage, and Usage
 
Tired of reading labels and wondering what they really mean by "Natural Flavors"? If you're like us, you're looking for ways to reduce the unknown chemicals you're feeding yourself and your family. Cooking with fresh herbs can mean you'll finally learn what combinations of real identifiable "natural flavors" are on your plate. As an added bonus, you can start reducing the amounts of salt, sugar, and fat in your recipes.
 

Selection:

If you've grown your own herbs, you probably don't need this article. For the rest of us, buy herbs that look fresh and clean with no discoloration or damage. The goal is to protect the natural oils that are responsible for giving herbs their flavors and aromas.  Anything that prematurely crushes the herbs is going to reduce the oils.

 

Storage:

Wash the herbs in cool (not cold) water right before you're ready to use them. Pat them dry with paper towels.  For storage up to a week, treat them like flowers:  trim off the ends of the stems on the diagonal. Then arrange in a vase or glass in an inch of water. Loosely cover with a plastic bag to keep clean but allow for air circulation.

 

Preparation for Microplane® Herb Mill:

Start with clean, dry herbs.  You can put stems and leaves of soft-stemmed herbs like parsley and cilantro straight into your Microplane® Herb Mill. For herbs with sturdier stems that you don't want to eat, strip off the leaves by running your fingers firmly down the stem from top to bottom.  Place the leaves in your herb mill.  Place the Microplane® Herb Mill plunger back into the mill body and twist.  Out will come finely cut herbs.  (Fine cutting is important because the more cut surface exposed, the more flavor will be released.)

 

General Guidelines for Cooking with Fresh Herbs:

 
  1. Dried herbs are stronger than fresh. Powdered herbs are stronger than crumbled. Use this formula for substituting fresh herbs in recipes:
    1/4 teaspoon powdered herbs = 3/4 to 1 teaspoon crumbled = 2 teaspoons fresh.

  2. Everyone has a different opinion so experiment with small amounts and see what you like.

  3. Generally, it's not good to mix two very strong herbs together.  However, one strong and other milder flavors tend to complement both the stronger herb and the food.

  4. The weaker the flavor of the main staple item, the lower the level of added seasoning required to create a pleasing balance of tastes

  5. Fresh herb flavors are lost by extended cooking. Add herbs to stews or soups about 45 minutes before completing the cooking. For cold foods such as dips, cheese, vegetables, and dressings, add herbs the night before or at least several hours before serving.

  6. To learn more about how each herb tastes, try mixing one with margarine or butter and let it sit for at least an hour. Then spread on a plain cracker.
 

Fresh Herb Uses

   

Anise

 

Chicken, pork, fish, stews, beverages, stewed fruit. Seeds in baked goods.

Basil

 

Tomatoes and tomato dishes, vinegars, rice, eggs, meats, duck, salads, vegetables.

Chive

 

Salads, stews, appetizers, vegetables, butter, yogurt, and sour cream sauces.

Dill

 

Fish and fish sauces, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, breads, beets, cucumbers, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, salads.

Fennel

 

Tomato dishes, eggs, fish, marinades for meats, carrots, pickles, breads and baked goods.

Marjoram

 

Stews, soups, meats, tomato dishes, vegetables, eggs, breads, French dressing.

Mint

 

Salads, lemonade, tea, potatoes, scallops, sauces and jelly, sherbet, lamb, fruit.

Oregano

 

Italian tomato sauces, barbecue sauce, soups, eggs, cheese, pork, vegetables, salad dressings.

Parsley

 

Tomato sauces, fish, meats and poultry, soups, stews, vegetables.

Rosemary

 

Lamb, pork, vegetables, chowders, cheese.

Sage

 

Fish, meat, poultry stuffing, chowders, soups, tomatoes.

Savory

 

Pork, chowders, stews, fish, eggs, salads, beans, biscuits.

Tarragon (French)

 

Eggs, yogurt and sour cream dishes, meat, asparagus, beans, cucumbers.

Thyme (Lemon or English)

 

Stews, clam chowder, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, stuffings, bread, biscuits, lima beans, broccoli, onions.