All About Fresh Herbs

Common Herb Names A to Z  Fresh Thyme




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  Cooking with Fresh Herbs
You'll be rewarded ten-fold when you start cooking with fresh herbs.  The wonderful fragrance of an herb is most pleasing, but your palate will enjoy the greatest pleasure from the herb's flavor itself.  All chefs cook with fresh herbs!  Wondering why you never thought to use fresh herbs?  Wonder no more!  Cooking with fresh herbs is
easy and makes food taste so much better.
Learn how to grow your own herbs [that's easy too], and to dry herbs for winter usage as well as creating exquisite herb vinaigrettes.  This herb table notes how to use the most popular herbs, and a must for preparing haut cuisine, the 'Bouquet Garni', about 'Fine Herbs' and Herbs de Provence.

How to Use Herbs to Create Wonderful Cuisine
Aerogarden | All About Fresh Herbs | Herb Main Page | Gourmet Home



  Basil is one of the most used herbs in the world; it is a member of the mint family, and its healthy and nutritious, with just a hint of anise [licorice like] spicy flavor.  There are numerous types of Basil, from Purple Basil, to dark green, tiny basil, all textures and shapes.  Of course there is Spicy Basil itself, and different scented basils. The most used, and a culinary classic of all Basil  is....Sweet Basil [L. Ocimum Basilcum].

Basil uses are numerous, and varieties will vary in taste, it simply is a matter of you trying them, and selecting your favorite basil.  In recent years the popular dish with tomato,  mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Basil is still one of the great pairings.  When using Fresh Basil, remember that it is very delicate, and do not cut it until the very last minute, the leaves will turn black on you. 

Use Fresh Basil in a wild greens salad, in pasta and rice, dishes with tomatoes or tomato sauce in them, eggs[ try deviled eggs with fresh basil], all meats, duck and vegetables.  Be experimental, basil adds a lot to most foods.  Make a Basil Butter to spread on a good crunchy French or Italian baguette!  Add basil to tomato soup, because basil and tomato is wonderful pairing.

Basil is healthy and nutritious for you, and assists the digestive system.  It is recommended by herbalists for stomach cramps, vomiting and constipation, and basil tea after dinner assuages stomach protestations and flatulence.
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     Bay Laurel known as Bay Leaf

        Bay Leaf

  Bay Laurel [Bay Leaf] is again one of the most used herbs in Italian cuisine, but for all types of cooking in general. Bay Leaf is a savory and strong flavored leaf that is used in sauces, stews, soups and braising liquids.  It is a tender evergreen herb in all but the southern most zones. 

Bay Leaf is part of the essential French 'Bouquet Garni', used in French cooking, and is used to flavor stocks and the afore mentioned soups and stews [ more on bouquet garni blends].

Bay leaves should be slightly crushed before adding them to your cooking medium.  Always add a couple of bay leaves to your water for cooking pasta, along with salt, a good Italian pepper blend, and taste a world of difference in any pasta.

Bay leaves can literally be used in cooking of most foods, add it to poaching liquids for fish and poultry, marinades for wild game, and toss a couple in your Römertoph clay cooker with favorite meats or poultry, but remove before making a sauces.

Bay leaves can be cooked for hours, and thus their usage in tomato pasta sauces, soups, etc. However, bay leaves should be removed before serving, don't eat the leaves.
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  Chives are wonderful to add to an array of gourmet recipes.  Chives are grown in the form of a clump, with blooms that are quite lovely in the herb garden, or decoratively as a yard plant.  Chives will do well in almost any type garden soil...or even in a window pot with plenty of sun.  Chives are fairly hardy in the winter, but do check your gardening zone.  I personally will not use dried chives ever!  The difference between fresh chives and dried chives are like night and day.

Chives need little tending to, and are best when snipped with scissors rather than a knife.  Wash them, drain them and chop them up, and you can store them in the fridge for several days, and use them as needed.  Of course you can always freeze your chives, and keep them for winter usage. 

A chive favorite of course is cream cheese with chives.  Chives are great in sour cream sauces and yogurt.  Do not limit yourself to these noted foods, because there is a whole world of ideas to explore with the use of chives in place of green onions.  First of all, chives are much milder, with a more delicate flavor than green onions.  But for people who are sensitive to onions in general, but love their taste, this might be a great substitute for you.

Try chives in your favorite egg recipe [if not in it, sprinkle some on top of it], add it to salads, soups and stews [but at the last minute...because the flavor depletes quickly when cooked], and of course another favorite is 'Chive Butter'.
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  Lavender is grown in the French region of Provence,  and is widely used in France.  It has a multitude of uses, is very versatile, and is quite unique in flavor and is one of the most wonderful flower scents in the world.  Lavender is grown all around the world, with many species, each with their own unique 'Lavender scent' and hardiness. Several Lavenders are evergreen in nature [view here].

The French region of Provence, offers some very unique Provençal recipes to try.  These recipes range from meats, to poultry, fish and seafood, to use in vegetables and even some of the most wonderful desserts! 

Herbes de Provence seasoning is only authentic if it comes from Provence, France.  You'll find several blends in the grocery and specialty stores, but the real Herb de Provence blend includes Lavender from Provence. 

Fresh Lavender flowers and leaves are both used in food preparation, and their buds and stems can be dried for aroma therapy amongst other things.

Lavender is most used in France for the making of perfumes, which of course is a huge industry in France, and selling their 'eau de parfums' to the world.
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Marjoram comes in both annual and hardy varieties.

  Marjoram [also known as sweet marjoram] is both a tender annual and an evergreen species of the Mint Family.  Wild marjoram dates back to Greek times, and for its medicinal values.  It is a very fragrant plant that has become one of my favorite herbs.  It is so contradictory in taste from its dried herb form.  The perennial has a slightly woody stem, and is hardy during the winter.  The sweet tender variety is an annual, with exception of extreme southern climates.

Marjoram has overtones of mint and is slightly piquant, so use sparingly. until you become familiar with it's different can be overwhelming.  Marjoram is from the same family as Oregano, and often confused with their comparisons, but the two herbs really don't taste similar at all.  Oregano is slightly bitter and pungent, while marjoram is sweet and fragrant.

Marjoram pairs well with Italian and Mediterranean cuisine in general.  It sounds strange to say that it perfumes roasts, sauces and braising liquids, but it does.  You will either love this herb, or you will not be able tolerate it. 

One of our favorite ways to use marjoram is in potato salad, or on a baked potato with sour cream, salt and pepper. Its great for meats, soups, stews, vegetables, eggs, dressings, fruits, even ice cream, it is very diverse in its uses for cooking, and has a vast array of medicinal uses. 

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  Oregano is definitely associated with Mediterranean [its native to hot dry regions] and Italian cuisine. It is quite pungent, so use it sparingly until you get the feel for what your trying to achieve.

Oregano has numerous varieties such as Greek oregano [probably the most popular], Mediterranean oregano, Catalan Oregano, Spanish Oregano that will vary in taste.  Again, as noted about basil kinds, you'll have to try different oreganos to find the one that you like best.  Some are milder and not as pungent as others.

Oregano is used in Italian dishes to flavor red sauces such as marinara, and of course pizza.  It goes well with garlic and lemon in Greek dishes, and is the most noted herb when cooking lamb. It also does justice to red meats, pork, roasted chicken and Greek Moussaka or the French dish Ratatouille. Its great for marinades and salad dressings and vegetables, especially green pole beans.
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  Parsley is used by everyone, and probably is the most used herb in the world.  The two most common varieties are curly parsley, and flat leafed Italian parsley. These two have definite and distinctly different tasets.  Parsley has  its own unique green slightly peppery but mild flavor.

It is very nutritious for you, even eating it alone.  It is very versatile and used worldwide. Parsley is a great for just about everything, including soups, stews, seafood dishes, meats, sautéed vegetables, and sea foods. Parsley is great in dips, and sauces, and you can be adventurous with this herb.

Parsley has always been the most popular garnish on nearly any dish, and in France is used in another herb blend called 'fine herbs'.   It is one of the main ingredients in the classic "bouquet garni" for flavoring stocks or braises. [more on bouquet garni blends].
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Rosemary - one of the best scented and used herbs.

  Rosemary is an evergreen herb. It is unique in appearance and looks similar to that of short pine needles, and with a similar pine taste.  The two most wonderful things about this herb is its fragrance and flavor.  It is an herb widely used in healthy Mediterranean cooking.

This is one herb that you really want to check the smell and taste of before buying.  Rosemary runs from fairly pungent to extremely pungent.  Rosemary Tuscan is very hardy and very potent, it is too potent for my taste. A favorite is 'Trailing Rosemary', with a pure Rosemary scent without the bite in it.  Because rosemary can be so overwhelming, be sure to use it sparingly until you achieve the flavor that you want.

Rosemary is easy to use, just hold the stem between two fingers with one hand, and use your other thumb and finger of the other hand, slide down the stem pulling the leaves off.  Chop the leaves very fine, these can be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated for several days.

This is another herb that can stand a long cooking time. A little goes a long way, so add it to roasted meats and poultry of all types [traditionally is used with Lamb], but is great on all types of meat or fowl.

You can add whole springs of rosemary to add to soups and stews, however you must be careful when adding sprigs of rosemary that you don't have a woody stem.  Use only the newer growth that is still tender.  The woody stem gives off a very bitter flavor which you don't want in your recipe. If you're unsure if the stem is woody, use the leaves only and put them in cheese cloth and add that to your recipe.

Rosemary is great with fish [fish steaks not tender delicate fish] and its great with seafood dishes.  Rosemary is great to make scented oils, vinegars and a basic marinade made with olive oil, garlic a touch of lemon, salt and pepper.  And,  fresh rosemary gives a new face to potatoes, whether they are baked, mashed, sautéed, or boiled new potatoes, use rosemary instead of parsley. A great addition to vegetables.

If you bake bread, you'll find that rosemary fresh baked bread is to die for!  A friend always had a sourdough starter, and baked bread everyday, adding a sprig of rosemary in the cut on top of the loaf.  The scent while it was baking was heavenly, and it tasted even better.  Evergreen Herbs


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Sage - another multi-use herb, with several species.

  Sage is an evergreen herb, that has been around since Roman times, but most people only associate its use with poultry and stuffing for the holidays.  However, it is used in the Mediterranean diet, teas, medicinal uses are numerous, both for external and internal uses.  Its usage even sports that it can boost memory power.

Sage comes in several varieties, with roundish leaves [sage clary] and oblong leaves [common] garden sage is probably the most used.  You'll find purple sage [a favorite for its color, and a great decoration for the herb or garden] and scented sages, such as pineapple sage are used quite often.  Its scent is potent and slightly musky, and since it is a rather potent herb, use sparingly and adjust the amount as needed.

Besides its well known use in stuffing for poultry, it goes well with pork or veal, like a pork loin roast stuffed with dried fruits, fresh sage and sautéed onions is wonderful.  Sage adds character to vegetables; add fresh sage to sautéed onions or mushrooms, and radishes.  It goes well with baked squash, and root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes, etc.

Try sage leaves as an appetizer or decorative touch to soups.  Sauté whole sage leaves [photo shown is Salvia officinalis or garden sage] in butter until golden, for a tasty treat or garnish. A snack of sage leaves is quite decadent and they melt on your tongue.

Sage adds a pungent flavor to soups and stews, or add it to wild rice with sautéed onions and mushrooms and either roasted pecans or walnuts.

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  Thyme is a wonderful petit leafed herb, that comes in may varieties, of which several are used as tight compact ground covers between stepping stones, or on walls in a garden.

Thyme comes in many flavors, so you can have your pick.  I rarely use regular thyme, unless I want a more pungent flavor.  My favorite has become 'Lemon Thyme' because it truly gives a lemony flavor to whatever your cooking.  It is especially good in fish dishes of all kinds, and add fresh lemon thyme on vegetables for a zesty change.

Thyme of course is a very versatile herb, and complements almost any type of meat, is great in seafood dishes, soups, stocks, sauces and stews.  Add thyme to gratin vegetables,
and vegetables in general...a truly zesty perk.

Thyme is great in pasta sauces, but if a recipe calls for sprigs of thyme, again be careful not to get a real woody piece, it takes on too bitter a taste, and defeats its purpose.

Last but not least, this is one of the essential herbs that go into making up the 'Bouquet Garni' which all chefs use to flavor stocks, soups, stews and sauces.  [ More ]



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