Whether you grow them in your own garden or buy them from your local grocery store, fresh herbs can elevate just about anything you can make in your kitchen. But how do you know which herbs to use in which dish? How do you store them? And how do they go from a garnish on your plate to something you actually want to eat? For the answer to these questions and more, here are five tips about using and storing fresh herbs.
Before you use any fresh herb, taste it. Flavors vary with most herbs and it can be difficult to tell just by looking at them which are at their maximum flavor potential, and which are past their prime. Tasting your herbs is also a great way to get inspiration for a new dish. If you’re curious about a new herb, buy and try! Just be sure to lightly rinse your herbs before tasting—even if they’re from your very own garden.
What’s In Store
All you need to properly store your fresh herbs are a glass jar, a plastic bag and some water. First, snip off the stems of your herbs and make sure they’re completely dry before storing. Next, fill a jar halfway with water and place the stem ends inside. Then loosely cover the jar with a plastic bag creating a greenhouse-like effect. Depending on your herbs, you can leave the jar out at room temperature or place in the refrigerator. For example, basil and parsley can be stored at room temperature, but cilantro likes it cold. If the water starts to discolor, simply change it out for fresh water and your herbs will last up to two whole weeks!
Take your dish to the next level with an unexpected fresh herb pairing. We recommend adding Thai basil and lemongrass to some coconut milk for a creamy, herbaceous sauce for fish or chicken. You can even add fresh rosemary to your favorite shortbread recipe for delicious and unique rosemary shortbread cookies.
Drink It In
Fresh herbs are great to eat, but they might be even better to drink! Mint is an obvious choice for mojitos, iced mint tea and mint watermelon lemonade, but mix it up by adding basil to a peach iced tea or a strawberry basil champagne cocktail. Plus, you can spice up the taste of regular old water by adding your favorite herbs, fruit or cucumber and some ice for a more interesting way to stay hydrated all day.
Did you know fresh thyme was used by the ancient Romans to protect against being poisoned? They would also burn bundles of thyme to evoke a soldiers courage. Later in the Victorian era, thyme was associated with catching fairies! Rosemary had its own mystical properties. Since the herb is seen as a symbol of marriage and fertility, women used to sleep with some under their pillow so they would dream of their future husbands. We can’t guarantee that your herbs will help you catch fairies or dream of love, but it can’t hurt!