What is an herb? The botanist definition is: “Any seed-bearing plant that does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering.” At Create Better Health, we like the simple definition: A useful plant. Herbs can be used for medicinal purposes, in scented oils, and for fresh or dried flower arrangements. We think the best use is for cooking!
Whether you grow fresh herbs indoors or out, robust flavor is just at your fingertips. If you decide to grow them indoors, be sure to check out our blog post on growing a successful indoor garden.
Once you have mastered your growing techniques, it’s time to reap what you’ve sown! Here are some helpful tips from USU Extension on harvesting fresh herbs:
- Harvest fresh herbs as soon as the plant has enough foilage to maintain growth, but before flower buds open.
- If your herbs are outside, harvest them mid-morning after the dew has dried, but before the essential oils have been burned off by the sun. The oils are what give your herbs their unique flavor and aroma.
- Wash with cold water and hang long enough for water to evaporate, or pat dry with a paper towel.
- If drying, hang herbs upside down in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area for 1-2 weeks. You can dry them in a dehydrator as well, just be careful to avoid over-drying. Be sure to dry the whole leaf/stem. Chopping them up before drying releases those essential oils mentioned earlier.
- Store dry herbs in airtight containers in a cool/dark place.
Cooking with fresh herbs can seem confusing. How much is too much? What flavors go well together? When do I add herbs to my dish? We’ve got you covered with some more tips to simplify your new hobby:
- When using fresh herbs, let the strength of the herb guide you. Experiment with the flavors. What food does the smell remind you of? Start by adding small amounts and taste as you go.
- A general guideline is 1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried. Adjust your recipes accordingly.
- Avoid mixing two strong herbs together. It’s better to mix one strong herb with one or more other mild flavors. What goes well together is up to you! Click here for a great resource from Penn State Extension showing tasty food, herb, and spice pairings.
- Add fresh herbs towards the end of the process for cooked foods. For uncooked foods (such as cold salads), add them a little earlier to allow time for the flavors to blend.
- If you’re chopping fresh herbs for your meal, wait until you’re ready to use them. You’ll achieve maximum flavor when they are chopped just before use. To learn how to best chop fresh herbs, click here.
What are you waiting for? Time to take this info to the kitchen! I decided to try Rosemary Parmesan Breadsticks. They were really easy to make. They are so tasty that my kids kept asking for more!
I posted a few more of my favorite recipes using fresh herbs below. Enjoy!
Recipes Using Fresh Herbs:
Barly Tabouli Salad (parsley & cilantro)
Berry Mint Popsicles (mint)
Cilantro Lime Quinoa (cilantro)
Chicken and Thyme Soup (thyme)
Fresh Corn and Radish Salad (cilantro)
Green Fruit Salad (mint)
Green Goddess Salad Dressing (parsley)
Minty Melon Salad (mint)
Rainbow Frittata (thyme)