Fresh herbs are my number one favorite way to liven up dishes. The second you chop or cut fresh herbs they release a plethora of wonderful aromas and essential oils to impart food, turning bland dishes into amazing dishes. I grow fresh herbs year round indoors and they are easy for even those who are green thumb challenged to grow. Fresh herbs are far superior to dried, and if you do a side by side comparison of the same dish prepared one with fresh herbs and one with dried herbs, it’s a hands down no competition which yields the better flavor. Continue reading to check out the following quick reference fresh herb guide for all the most common and easy to grow and use herbs.
USAGE TIP: Less is more. When using fresh herbs, you will ALWAYS use much less than when using dried herbs, so be mindful of the amount that you add to dishes. While fresh herbs pack lots of flavor, you don’t want them to overpower the flavor of all the remaining ingredients in your dishes.
STORAGE TIP: Store fresh herbs like you would fresh flowers, in a little bit of fresh water in the fridge, and preferably with a plastic bag lightly draped over the top. Fresh herbs will keep 3 times as long when stored this way.
Fresh Thyme – This is a very versatile herb that pairs well with Greek, Italian, Mexican and American cuisine. I use this wonderful herb in vegetarian chili, hot and cold pasta, rice and potato salads and as a wonderful addition to many soups and casseroles. If you eat eggs, this is great for omelets and quiches as well.
Fresh Dill – A delightful herb that pairs exceptionally well with potato dishes as well as other root vegetable, whether cooked or cold.
Fresh Cilantro – A favorite fresh herb for Mexican and Asian inspired dishes, I absolutely love the freshness of this herb. It’s also one of the few herbs you can go a bit heavy handed on without the flavor being too overwhelming.
Fresh Rosemary – This herb is very easy to over use, so go very lightly when adding to recipes. Alternately, when adding to cooked foods (regardless of preparation method) you can just add a sprig of rosemary during the cooking time and strain out before serving. If using rosemary the sprig method, do not chop, otherwise you’ll release too much of its essential oils and risk overpowering your dish. This herb pairs well with hearty food ingredients such as root vegetables, as well as bean based dishes.
Fresh Mint – Another refreshing herb that pairs well with lighter foods, including fruit and desserts. Like cilantro, you can go a little bit heavier in use without overpowering the dish.
Fresh Parsley – This herbs looks extremely similar to cilantro, yet its flavor is distinctly different. Parsley pairs well with Mediterranean dishes, in addition to making a great fresh herb finish for most dishes, including salads, soups, chilis, fresh cold or cooked vegetables and more.
Fresh Basil – This wonderful herb is fabulous to add to Italian, Greek, and American dishes. It livens up potato, rice and pasta dishes, as well as bean based and other legume based dishes. I’ve even used it in quinoa and couscous recipes, and the fresh basil is always a standout flavor that also serves to highlight the flavor of the other herbs and spices you might be using in the dish. Be careful not to go to heavy however, as its very easy to go from delicious to overwhelming.
Fresh Chives – A slightly spicy tasting herb that makes a great fresh ingredient finish to dishes, much like fresh parsley. I do not recommend adding fresh chives during the cooking process. Instead, add it in during the last few minutes of cooking, or stir or sprinkle into a dish after it’s prepared. You can go light or heavy with this fresh herb, depending on your taste preference.
Fresh Oregano – Like thyme, this delightful herb is incredibly versatile and pairs well with Greek, Italian, Mexican and American dishes. You can use fresh oregano SLIGHTLY more heavy handed than most other fresh herbs, but I do emphasize slightly. Oregano adds immense flavor to potato and root vegetable dishes, rice, pasta, beans and other legumes, as well as quinoa, couscous and egg dishes.
So, truly, if you want an easy way to liven up your dishes, fresh herbs pack an amazing amount of flavor even with just a tiny bit added. Additionally, fresh herbs are nutrient rich, adding vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other powerful plant compounds that boost your health as well as flavor to your kitchen creations.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews