Cooking is a labor of love. I know that you are like me and you want to feed your family and friends the best tasting and freshest foods you can.
When you use fresh herbs for cooking when gives you the opportunity to:
- know that your food is chemical free
- know that the nutritional value of herbs are not lost
- know that the flavor of fresh herbs is more mellow and palatable
Herbs are easily grown in your own backyard. You can grow them in a pot or even in your flower beds. So many herbs bloom and can easily fit in with your favorite flowers.
I grow many of my favorite herbs for cooking in pots. The pots are placed on the porch right outside of my kitchen. Knowing that I can walk a few steps and snip off the freshest of herbs for my dinner makes me happy.
If you don’t have the space for herbs, you can easily purchase fresh herbs from your favorite grocery store. If you do this, I suggest taking them out of the package they are in and drying them. At times, the herbs can get too wet in the store and this will promote rot.
You can also dry the herbs off and place them in a glass of water on your counter. This will remind you to use them before they go bad.. Use store purchased herbs within 3 or 4 days.
Using fresh herbs for cooking:
- Allows you to cut back on salt by providing flavor to your meals
- Adds essential vitamins A, C and K to your food
- Are filled with antioxidants and have anti-anti-inflamatory effects
Here is a list of the most used herbs used when cooking:
Basil – used with pasta, salads, tomatoes, butters, vinegars, pets and vinaigrettes. (purple basis makes a delicious herbal vinegar)
Chives – Use in salads, potatoes, eggs, cheese, butters and cream cheese. I love them in mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs
Cilantro – Great in salsa nd salad dressings. Many people hate cilantro – I love it and find as many uses for it as I can.
Dill – This herbs is most know for it’s use in salads, cream cheese, fish, herb butters and vegetables.
French Tarragon – Try this in chicken salad, tuna salad, butters and beans.
Lavender – You may be surprised to see this herb on the list. It is great in baking. I make cookies, breads and more with it. Make lavender lemonade or ice-cream.
Mint – There are so many types of mint available to us. It is great for Mint Juleps, vegetables and many desserts. If you grow this at home, beware. This herb will spread like wild fire!
Parsley – Many of us think of this herb as a decoration to our plates. It is great in pastas, salads, stews and sauces. I always have this biennial growing in my garden.
Oregano – There are many varieties of oregano. Most of us think of Italian food when we think of oregano. It is also a popular herbs used in Mexican food. You can add it to pasta, beans, vegetable, soups and pizza. There is hot and spicy oregano that really packs a punch.
Rosemary – This is such a classic herb. Use it with poultry, pork, lamb, beef and pestos. Tear the leaves off of the woody stem and use it as a skewer for kabobs. You won’t regret that.
Sage – When I think of sage, I think of Thanksgiving. It is most popular in stuffings at that time of the year. Use it for turkey, chicken and lamb. Dry it and use it for cookies.
Thyme – This herb really brings out the flavor in meats. It was an herb that I didn’t use often, but now, I love it.
How to use fresh herbs for cooking instead of dried
Fresh herbs are not as strong as dried herbs. You will need to double (approximately) the amount of fresh herbs when you make a recipe. Dried herbs will last longer than fresh herbs, so that is something to remember.
If you purchase fresh herbs to use in your cooking and find you don’t need all of what you have. Pop them in a freezer safe container and keep them for a month or two.
Quick and easy ways to use fresh herbs for cooking:
- Chop fresh basil and add to a jarred pasta sauce when you are in a hurry
- Add mint leaves to iced tea or a mint julep
- Toss a few chopped chives in your mashed potatoes for a different flavor
- Fresh chives (both regular and garlic chives) are great in egg dishes
- Every salsa needs fresh oregano and cilantro
Recipes using fresh herbs:
Also, read how to turn a grill into an herb garden! You won’t want to miss that.
How do you use fresh herbs for cooking? I would love to know.
Read more about using fresh herbs for cooking at UNL