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Cooking with Fresh Herbs
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 • Posted July 18, 2012

Whether you plant them or pick them up at the grocery store or farmers’ market, adding fresh herbs is a quick way to transform ordinary meals into extraordinary meals.

Besides helping flavor foods when cutting back on salt, fat and sugar, herbs may offer additional benefits of their own. Researchers are finding many culinary herbs (both fresh and dried) have antioxidants that may help protect against such diseases as cancer and heart disease.

A snip of a fresh herb into a dish instantly kicks up the appearance a notch!

Unless directed otherwise by your recipe, add the more delicate herbs — basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, and mint — a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on the food before it’s served. The less delicate herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, and thyme, can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Experience what a difference in appearance and flavor fresh herbs can make. Better yet … they do this without adding extra calories! For example, top a baked potato with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of chives or parsley.

Substituting Fresh Herbs for Dried Herbs

A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use of a dried herb. When substituting, you’ll often be more successful substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs, rather than the other way around. For example, think potato salad with fresh versus dried parsley!

When to Pick or Purchase HerbsPurchase herbs close to the time you plan to use them. When growing herbs in your own garden, the ideal time for picking is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot. This helps ensure the best flavor and storage quality.

How to Store Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for a few days. If you don’t have access to commercial perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a regular plastic bag.

If you have more herbs than you can eat, enjoy herbal bouquets throughout your house. You can use either single herbs, combinations of herbs, or you can use the herbs as greenery mixed in with other flowers. To help preserve the aroma and color of your herb bouquets, place them out of direct sunlight.

Popular Fresh Herb and Food Combinations


a natural snipped in with tomatoes; terrific in fresh pesto; other possibilities include pasta sauce, peas, zucchini


dips, potatoes, tomatoes


Mexican, Asian, and Caribbean cooking; salsas, tomatoes


carrots, cottage cheese, fish, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes


carrots, fruit salads, parsley, peas, tabbouleh, tea


peppers, tomatoes


The curly leaf is the most common, but the flat-leaf or Italian parsley is more strongly flavored and often preferred for cooking. Naturals for parsley include potato salad, tabbouleh, egg salad sandwiches


chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes


eggs, lima beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash, tomato

I’ve been enjoying fresh veggies and herbs thanks to wonderful friends and the hard work they put into their gardens! Here lately my favorite thing to do is sauté some onions and garlic in olive oil, then add a little squash and cook it nearly through, and then add a few fresh tomatoes and basil or cilantro. I serve it over a whole grain pasta (our favorite is bowtie), sprinkle it with a little garlic salt (you may not need this but I LOVE garlic salt) and I sprinkle it with toasted nuts! SO GOOD!! I think any veggies you had on hand would be good in this, and brown rice would be a good option also.

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