Grows like a weed.
That’s how many people describe herbs.
Most herbs are eager self-starters that require lots of sun and little water. Herbs are one of the easier plants to grow.
I love to step outside to pick a few leaves to make a flavor-of-the-day. Fresh herbs add pizazz. If you don’t have any growing now, add it to your to-do list next year. Here are ideas on how to use them:
- Tarragon with mustard, vinegar and oil for a salad dressing.
- Basil ribbons over a pizza.
- Parsley tossed in a salad.
- Oregano stirred into marinara sauce.
- Mint in a water pitcher with sliced orange.
Because the essence of fresh herbs is intense, just a few sprigs are usually all you need.
Robust herbs such as sage, thyme, and bay leaves stand up well in long cooking while milder herbs like basil, marjoram, cilantro, and parsley can be added at the last minute. Sprinkle these at the end to finish the dish with a burst of flavor and color.
Storage of herbs is unique to the herb. Many fresh herbs such as chives, mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme can be wrapped in damp paper towels, sealed in a plastic bag and then refrigerated for a week. Basil is a warm-climate plant so sprigs should be kept in a glass of water like a flower bouquet. Cool-climate herbs such as dill and cilantro prefer the refrigerator in a glass of water with a water change every few days for longer life or wrapped in a damp cloth stored in a plastic bag.
For longer storage, basil, tarragon, mint, dill, rosemary and chives freeze well. Rinse the herbs, blot them dry and seal tightly in freezer container or freezer bags. They should keep 6 months. Be sure to label them so you know what’s what.
Another way I like to use herbs is mixed in butter. Flavored butters, also called compound butters, are an easy way to extend the life of fresh herbs plus season food such as corn on the cob, grilled steaks, baked fish, vegetables, biscuits, garlic bread, and baked potatoes.
Rinse the herbs in cool water and pat dry. Roll them up like a cigar, using a sharp knife, glide the knife across the herbs. A sharp knife helps because it cuts, rather than crushes the herbs. If the cutting board is green after you cut herbs, you’ve lost flavor. Stir the herbs into butter and you’re finished. Or you can add lemon and garlic and other seasoning like the recipe below for even more flavor.Herb Butter
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herb leaves, such as parsley, basil, oregano, chives
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
In a large bowl, mix the butter and the other ingredients with a fork or rubber spatula until evenly combined.
Cover and store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks to spread on corn on the cob, grilled steaks, vegetables, biscuits, garlic bread, and baked potatoes.
For longer storage, freeze. Lay about a foot-long piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Put the herb butter on the bottom center of the plastic wrap. Fold the bottom edge of the plastic wrap over the butter and roll the enclosed butter away from you until completely wrapped, to form a tube of butter about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Twist the ends together like a party favor. Label and freeze for up to 12 months.
Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website www.LiveBest.info for every day food solutions.
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