Using Herbs

Herbs can be purchased in dried or fresh forms and some are also sold frozen (like chives). The more commonly available fresh herbs are: parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, sage, oregano, chervil, bay leaf, coriander, marjoram, savory, tarragon and thyme. They can be found at almost every local food market at various times of year, depending on the herb or you can grow your own in your garden or window planter.

For successful use in any of the recipes, it is important to choose herbs that have a clean, fresh fragrance and a bright color without any sign of wilting or browning.

You can also use dried herbs. Dried herbs are available year round in metal or cardboard boxes, bottles, cellophane packages and unglazed ceramic pots. Remember, the more airtight the storage container, the longer the herbs will last.
Each time you use the herb, make sure the lid is tightly resealed. Dried herbs have a stronger, more concentrated flavor than fresh herbs, but quickly lose their pungency. Crushed or ground herbs become lackluster more quickly than whole herbs.

You can use herbs for almost every dish. A few aromatic herb leaves could add zest to a simple salad or enhance the flavor of any cooked meal. The flavor of an herb will be at its best if you add it to the recipe at the proper time. The delicate flavor and aroma of herbs can be lost by overcooking. To draw out more flavor, barely moisten herbs with a little lemon juice, water, cooking oil, or other liquid suitable for the food you are preparing, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before using. 

Add herbs as follows:

- to soups and stews during the last half hour of cooking.

- to uncooked foods such as tomato juice cocktail 3 to 4 hours before serving, or even overnight, to release the full flavor of the herb.

- to quickly cooked dishes or sauces as soon as you begin cooking the food.

Herbs may be used to flavor oil, vinegar, mustard, and butter. Choose your favorite herbs to add variety to these everyday ingredients.

Avoid using the same herbs in several dishes to be served at the same meal.

Choose your favorite herbs and prepare your own combinations of herbs. They will add variety to your everyday dishes. Keep in mind that when combining herbs, use one having a pronounced flavor with two to four others having a less pronounced flavor. The combination varies for different dishes. The amount to use depends on your taste preferences, the piquancy of each herb, and the effect it has on different foods. If you do not have a recipe, start with 1/4 teaspoon of herb per pound of meat or pint of sauce, and increase as desired.

NOTE: All of the herbs in the following famous combinations can be grown and dried at home.

The usual combinations are:

celery leaves, onion, parsley, and thyme;

chervil, chives, and parsley;

basil, sage, and savory;

Real Cooking

Did You Know?
If the recipe calls for fresh herbs, you can substitute dried herbs. Use a fourth of the recommended amount, for example, 1/4 teaspoon of dried herb instead of 1 teaspoon of fresh.

It is good idea to tie herbs and whole spices in a small square of cheesecloth so that they can be removed easily before serving. This will also prevent seasoning specks in the finished product. The same method can be used when whole spices and herbs are added to other foods.

Use whole spices and herbs for beverages and pickles. Remember, leaving whole spices in pickles can cause unsightly darkening.

Herbs are also known amongst gardeners to be useful for pest control. Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint, and Pennyroyal are a few of such herbs. These herbs when planted around a house's foundation can help keep unwanted critters away such as flies, mice, ants, fleas, moth and tick amongst others. They are not known to be harmful or dangerous to children or pets, or any of the house's fixtures.