We will have a number of herbs throughout the season -- some more than others. Basil is a big one for us, as are parsley and celery leaf. This is a place to read up on each of them.
The shelf-life for fresh herbs is relatively short (usually about a week), but all these herbs can be dehydrated and used year-round. Simply place them in a single layer (with no overlapping leaves) on a sheet of parchment paper in your oven, set the oven to very low (under 200 degrees), then turn off the oven after about 15 minutes. Leave the herbs in the warmed oven overnight, and they will have turned dry, but will keep much of their flavor. If they're not completely dried at this point, turn your oven on again, under 200 degrees, for 15 minutes, then turn off. Let them rest in the warm oven all day, and they'll absolutely be ready when you get home. Keep your dried herbs in small glass containers with tight lids and store away from heat and light.
Dried herbs do better in slow cooking and are preferable with the looking cooking needed for braises, stews and sauces. Fresh herbs don’t stand up as well to slow cooking as their oils and aromas fade with the extended heat. Fresh herbs are excellent when added at the end of cooking.
The general rule is to use one teaspoon of dried herbs for two servings (or a tablespoon for six servings). Try rubbing dried herbs between your palms to release freshen them up and release the aromatic oils. Dried herbs are much more potent so figure about three times as much fresh herbs as dried. When cooking (except with bay leaves), most often the best time to use herbs is at the finish. Save half of the herbs you are planning on using to add in the last fifteen minutes or so with soups and stews, the last 3-5 minutes for sautés. Finely chopped (or even whole herbs) add a flavorful garnish and beautiful touch to many prepared dishes.
Another great way to use herbs is in vinegar. Check out our Preparation & Storage tips to find out how to make it. You can also click over to Joy the Baker to read about making herbed oil. When adding herbs to salad dressing allow the herbs to infuse into the dressing for ten to fifteen minutes before tossing with greens.
Despite all the great ways to preserve herbs, you should absolutely enjoy them while they're fresh. Throw any of them whole into salads, on top of pizza, or into stir-fries. Experiment with flavors--they often compliment one-another nicely.
The basis of countless dishes from Taiwan to Italy, basil is considered by many to be a basic staple. Its complex flavor profile allows it to be used in lots of ways, from marinara to strawberry ice cream. Check out the shortbread recipe below.
Make a simple pasta sauce of basil, tomatoes, garlic and a bit of olive oil, pulsed in a food processor just enough to break everything up but not long enough to turn everything to mush.
Pesto doesn’t have to be complicated (or involve expensive pine nuts). See our simple recipe below.
Basil is a little tricky to store. One way is to place stems standing up in a jar of water and cover with a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. You can also leave it out for a few hours to dry out the leaves a bit, then put it in an airtight container, but you will need to check on it daily to make sure it isn't going bad too quickly.
You can also freeze a basic "pesto" that is just basil blended with enough oil to turn it to a paste. Store in a container with an extra layer of oil on top and enough headroom to allow the oil to expand.
Simply Recipes, adapted in our Newsletter: Simple Pesto (PDF)
Tastebook: Pad Ka Prow (Thai style Chicken with Basil... The translator could use a hand here, but the recipe is sound.)
Celery Leaf is an aromatic herb, not just the leaves cut from a stalk to be discarded. Try it chopped into a salsa verde or chimichuri. Its presence in our Bloody Mary Mix brings the mix to a new level of delicious.
Its savory flavor profile greatly improves all sorts of soups. It is great with hearty potato or chicken stews, but is versatile enough to earn a place in more delicate carrot soups as well. Use it liberally if you ever get around to making vegetable broth -- its flavor does wonders when used as a base.
If you hate cilantro, try celery leaf in its place -- it has a similar sharp, clean taste, but without the "soapy" taste that some pick up from cilantro.
Store like basil, standing up in a jar of water and covered with a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. For shorter-term storage, wrap in a damp paper towel and place in perforated or produce bag.
Chives [photo coming soon]
As the smallest member of the allium family, chives taste quite a bit like onions, but are only the green stalks of the plant, not the root. They're quite similiar to the green part of scallions, but are much thinner, with a less aggressive flavor.
Use chives almost anywhere you might use onions, plus a few extra places. Mince them into omelettes, use in savory baked goods, salad dressings (or as a topping), and mashed potatoes (or other root veggies). Use fresh or dehydrated chives on popcorn -- it's delicious with olive oil and a bit of salt.
Use kitchen shears to snip chives — this proves much easier than cutting them with a knife.
Wrap chives in a damp paper towel inside a plastic or produce bag. They should stay fresh for a week to 10 days.
Dehydrating is a particularly good way to keep your chives, especially since you'll likely be getting a larger portion that you would use in a single week. To dehydrage, simply layer chives on a piece of parchment paper in your oven, turn the oven to its lowest possible setting for 5-10 minutes, then turn it off and leave them overnight to dry.
Food 52: Black Pepper Popovers with Chives and Parmesean
Annie's Eats: Buttermilk Chive Biscuits
Annie's Eats: Spring Green Risotto
Bon Appétit: Creamy Chive Potatoes
Bon Appétit: Fresh Chive Vinaigrette
Much maligned by a small percentage of the population, cilantro is grown all over the world and used in many of the world's cuisines. If you happen to be someone who doesn't like taste of cilantro, there's sure to be someone close to you who would be excited to take it off your hands.
Toss it in burritos or tacos, with eggs, or as a finishing touch in your curry.
Store like other herbs standing up in a jar with about an inch of water and covered with a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. For shorter-term storage, wrap in a damp paper towel and place in perforated or produce bag.
DrinkSprits.com: Verdita - A delicious juice designed to be paired with tequila or cosumed alone.
This unique-flavored herb is generally used on its own, since its strong flavor precludes it from being paired with other strong herbs.
Dill tends to take front stage when added to foods. Try it on a baked, buttered potato, in baked goods like corn muffins, or sprinkled on your favorite strong cheese.
Toss it in hot pasta with lemon juice and olive oil, allow it to cool, then serve.
Store like basil, standing up in a jar with about an inch of water and covered with a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. For shorter-term storage, wrap in a damp paper towel and place in perforated or produce bag.
Like all these herbs, the leaves can be dehydrated in your oven for year-round use.
We grow two varieties of parsley: flat-leaf (Italian) and curly-leaf.
The two varieties together.
Try them both in different recipes to determine your favorite.
Toss whole parsley leaves into your salad for extra flavor and nutrition.
Parsley is surprisingly chock-full of vitamins A and C - so eat up! Put handfuls in your green smoothie or juice.
Add parsley to any pasta sauce or tomato-based soup. Add at the end of the cooking cycle for freshest flavor.
Include parsley in your cold potato, noodle, or egg salads. Makes a mean addition to tuna salad as well.
Store like other herbs, standing up in a jar with about an inch of water and covered with a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. For shorter-term storage, wrap in a damp paper towel and place in perforated or produce bag.
A potent and versatile herb, while there are literally hundreds of types of thyme, they can pretty much be used interchangeably. It enhances the flavor of most everything and complements a large range of other herbs (especially marjoram, oregano and savory). Thyme’s strong taste does well with meat, fish, poultry and mushrooms. It refreshes creamed dishes, perks up beans (dried, fresh and green!) and goes with most vegetables – carrots, celery, summer and winter squash… It enhances potatoes, cottage cheese and tomato juice. Lemon thyme is great with heavier, meaty stews and as a good tea.
Store like other herbs, standing in a jar with water, covered with a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. For shorter-term storage, wrap in a damp paper towel and place in a perforated or produce bag. To dry, hang in a dark, airy place until dry. When completely dry, remove the leaves, discard the stems and store in covered glass containers in a cool dry place. To separate the leaves from the stems, run your fingers in the direction opposite the growing leaves.