Fresh herbs add taste, texture and color to any meal. From basil to bay, thyme to tarragon, lean how to choose your herbs to accent almost any meal.
Fragrant leaves of various plants without woody stems that grow in certain temperature zones. Purchase fresh herbs that are bright in color with no browning or wilting characteristics. They should smell fresh and crisp. When storing herbs, it is advised to use a plastic container with an airtight lid.
Basil has a pungent fragrance as it comes from the mint family. It tastes somewhat like cloves, with a strong, sweet smell, and can be used in sauces, stews or simply, chopped and sprinkled on tomatoes or salads.
Bay Laurel leaves
Aromatic Leaves of several species in the laurel family. They are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance, and may be used fresh or dried. The leaves are green, glossy, and grow up to 3 inches long. Bay leaves are great when preparing sauces, stocks, and stews. They are especially wonderful for infusing foods that need a long cooking time to extract their wonderful flavor. Be sure to always remove the bay leaves after cooking because they become bitter and are not pleasant to eat.
Also known as French parsley, chervil is a member of the carrot family and looks somewhat like parsley. The taste has been described as a delicate combination of celery and licorice, but will vary depending on the foods it’s added to.
Chives are members of the onion family, giving them a very delicate and mild “oniony” flavor. They have hollow, flat green leaves and are wonderful in salad dressing, soups and as garnishes. Never cook chives, instead, add them at the end of your preparation so their delicate flavor doesn’t disappear too quickly.
Also known as Chinese parsley and featured prominently in Latin American, Oriental and Caribbean cuisines. Its pepper and citrus aroma are very fragile. It should be added in the last few minutes of cooking time. Cilantro is great for making salsas, fish dishes and salads.
Similar to fennel in appearance, dill has a sweet, aromatic flavor. It adds a wonderful fragrance to cold dishes such as vinaigrette and salads. Additionally, it’s great for warm dishes cooked for a long period of time to infuse its delicious flavor. It is one of the few herbs that can be cooked for some time without becoming bitter.
A member of the Mint family, marjoram tastes and looks very similar to oregano. The flavor of marjoram is spicy and aromatic yet has a delicate taste and aroma. It is used fresh or dried to season meats, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables and eggs. Native to both Asia and the Mediterranean, marjoram is popular in the cuisines of those regions.
Mint is a sweet and refreshing herb with a cooling taste; spearmint and peppermint are the most common varieties. Mint is one of the few herbs that can be used to compliment both savory and sweet dishes. Its soft-textured leaves can be used as a garnish or for infusing dishes with its aroma and flavor.
Many plants are loosely classified as oregano. Their flavor depends largely on where they’re cultivated. In general, the hotter the sun, the more pungent and peppery the oregano is. Oregano is a perfect match to tomato and garlic based sauce. It is hard to find recipes that include oregano but not garlic. Italian cuisine is practically synonymous with oregano. For a milder flavor, use marjoram.
Parsley is a member of the carrot family and native to the Mediterranean. The most common varieties are curly leaf parsley and the broad flat leaves of Italian parsley. Whether curly or flat-leafed, parsley is an indispensable herb in cooking and garnishing. Its subtle flavor of fresh celery and mild pepper can be used generously.
Rosemary is a flowering aromatic shrub belonging to the mint family. Leaves are used fresh or dried. Their strong, pungent and aromatic flavor is used to season meat, poultry, vegetables and breads.
Native to the Mediterranean region, sage has soft, slender, slightly furry, gray-green leaves and a pungent, slightly bitter, musty mint flavor. Primarily used for flavoring pork and stuffing, sage is available fresh or dried, chopped, whole or rubbed.
Thyme is an essential ingredient in French cuisine, especially in Provence. Today, thyme has crossed the ocean to add a sharp, warm, pungent minty, almost lemony scent to American dishes as well. A pinch of thyme, particularly when paired with other herbs, makes a flavorful addition to any stew, pasta, soup or sauce.
Tarragon is a licorice-flavored herb used in the preparation of the classic béarnaise sauce and many other sauces and soups. When fresh, tarragon is very aromatic and should be used sparingly so as not to overpower dishes.