Fresh herbs are an opportunity to take flavor from bland to brilliant, without adding salt, sugar, or fat. In fact, a bunch of herbs contains a bunch of nutrients. In addition to vitamins and minerals, the oils in most herbs lend antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can deliver impressive disease-fighting health benefits. Whether you're using a bunch or just a pinch, fresh herbs add aromatic flavors and an attractive pop of color to your plate.
Unsure of how to use fresh herbs in the kitchen? Fresh herbs fit into just about any dish. Keep in mind that in most cases, heat destroys the flavor and nutrients of fresh herbs, so they're best when added at the end of the cooking process. Exceptions are hardy, woody herbs like rosemary and sage, which can stand up to some heat. Otherwise there are no "rules" when cooking with fresh herbs—only that you and your guests enjoy eating them. Use the table below as a guide, but don't be afraid to get creative and use herbs in innovative ways!
|Flavor Profile||Perfect For...||World Cuisines to Inspire You||Recipes to Try|
|Basil||Bright, minty, and peppery with a bit of sweetness||Add basil to salads, sandwiches, pizza, marinara sauce, and pasta. Pair with anything involving tomatoes. Or make homemade pesto.||Italian|
|Chives||Refreshingly light onion taste||Thinly slice and use as a garnish for any savory dish. Chives are great in dips, in quesadillas, with eggs, and atop baked potatoes. They can also balance the heaviness of rich foods like cream sauces and risotto.||Chinese|
|Tri-Colored Penne, Argula, Cherry Tomatoes, Chives, and Fresh Mozzarella|
|Cilantro||Bright and citrusy, sometimes soapy||Add it to salsa, guacamole, soups, stews, salads, tacos, fish, and chicken dishes. Pairs well with any Mexican-inspired dish.||Mexican|
|Dill||Clean, grassy, tangy, and earthy||Pairs well with seafood (especially salmon) and anything involving cucumber. Add it to potato salad, omletes, yogurt dressing, and watery cheeses like cottage cheese, cream cheese, and goat cheese.||French||BBQ Pork Ribs and Creamy Dill Potato Salad|
|Mint||Refreshingly sweet flavor with a cooling aftertaste||Pairs well with lamb, stone fruit, berries, and chocolate. Add it to ice cream, frozen yogurt, iced tea, and mojitos.||Indian|
|Parsley||Grassy and slightly peppery. Curly parsley is less assertive that flat-leaf parsley (which is also called Italian parsley)||Use it as a garnish for just about any savory dish. Chop it up and sprinkle it over eggs, grilled steaks, fish, chicken, lamb, rice, or vegetables.||French|
|Herb-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Lemon Pepper Green Beans|
|Oregano||A hint of earthiness combined with a slight spiceness||Chop it up and add it to vinaigrette, pizza, rice, or tomato sauce. Pairs well with poultry and wild game.||French|
|Sun-Dried Tomato Soup|
|Rosemary||A strong, sometimes pungent, pine-like earthy fragrance and flavor||Pairs well with garlic and olive oil. Add it to beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pork, or potatoes. Simmer stews, soups, or sauces with a sprig on the surface; remove before serving.||French|
|Roasted Lemon Chicken Sausages with Rosemary Garlic|
|Sage||Mild to slightly peppery taste, with a touch of mint, eucalyptus, and cedar||Stands up well to bold, savory dishes, like cured meats, sausages, por dishes, rich and creamy dishes, and anything invovling brown butter. It's also an American staple in turky dishes and stuffing.||Italian|
|Apple Sage Wild Rice Stuffing|
|Tarragon||A delicate anise or licorice flavor that's more sweet than strong||Pairs well with white wine vinegar and mustard. Add it to omelets, fish, and chicken dishes. Add it to stews, rice dishes, dips, and sauces.||French||Yogurt-Herb Dressing|
|Thyme||Lemony, slightly minty, piney, and earthy||Inlcude it in a bouquet garni to season stocks, soups, and sauces. Pairs well with pork, lamb, or duck, as well as with other herbs like rosemary, parsley, sage, and oregano. Add it to stews, rice dishes, dips, and sauces.||
|Leek and Goat Cheese Tart|
Store Your Herbs Right
To keep fresh herbs from going to waste, treat them like fresh flowers. Place them in a small jar or glass with an inch of water at the bottom. Place a plastic bag loosely over the leaves. Store them in the fridge or on the counter top.
OR freeze your herbs for later. Chop your herbs up and pack them into an ice cube tray. Fill each cell with olive oil and place them in the freezer until you're ready to up. Then simply add a cube to your dish, allow the oil to melt, and voila—a pop of herb flavor!
Meet Your Farmer: Meyer Farms
Sunset's selection of fine culinary herbs comes from Meyer Farms in Wauconda, IL. Vern Meyer is a pioneer in the packaged herb industry, and Sunset was his first customer back in 1990! His family-run organic farm continues to grow a superior product.
Click here to learn more about cooking with fresh herbs!