As someone who loves to cook, I know that fresh herbs can make all the difference in a recipe. Whether it’s adding a sprig of rosemary to roasted potatoes or tossing in some chopped parsley to brighten up a pasta dish, using fresh herbs can elevate your cooking from good to great. But if you’re not familiar with how to properly use and store them, you might find yourself throwing away wilted bunches more often than not.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my tips and tricks for:
- Choosing the best quality fresh herbs
- Washing and drying them thoroughly
- Storing them properly so they last as long as possible
- Using them in your cooking for maximum flavor impact
- Reviving wilted herbs (because let’s face it – we’ve all forgotten about that bunch of cilantro in the back of the fridge at one point or another).
So whether you’re an experienced home cook looking to amp up your herb game or a novice just starting out on your culinary journey, read on for everything you need to know about how to properly use and store fresh herbs.
Choose Fresh Herbs
When you’re selecting herbs, make sure they’re vibrant and fragrant so that your dishes will be bursting with flavor. One of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting the freshest herbs is by growing them yourself. Growing tips for herbs vary depending on the type of herb you want to grow, but some general tips include planting in well-drained soil, providing enough sunlight, and watering regularly.
Knowing the culinary uses of each herb can also help you choose which ones to buy. For example, basil is commonly used in Italian cuisine and pairs well with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, while mint is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine and adds a refreshing touch to salads and drinks.
By being knowledgeable about the herbs’ culinary uses, you can select the right one for your dish and elevate its flavors to new heights.
Wash and Dry Herbs
Get those herbs squeaky clean and bone dry before doing anything else! Properly washing and drying your fresh herbs is crucial in preserving their flavor and extending their shelf life.
First, gently rinse the herbs under cool running water to remove any dirt or debris. Be sure to handle them delicately so as not to bruise or damage the leaves.
After washing, it’s important to dry the herbs thoroughly. You can do this by shaking off excess water, patting them dry with a paper towel, or using a salad spinner. If you plan on using the herbs immediately, simply air-drying them on a kitchen towel will suffice.
However, if you want to store them for later use, there are various drying techniques such as hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated area or using a dehydrator.
By taking these extra steps in herb preservation, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh flavors all year round!
Store Herbs Properly
Preserving the flavor and prolonging the shelf life of your fresh herbs is crucial to ensuring they remain potent and flavorful for future use. After washing and drying your herbs, you need to store them properly.
There are several ways to do this, but selecting the right method depends on the type of herb. For hardy herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage, wrap them loosely in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel before placing them in a plastic bag. Leave the bag slightly open to ensure air circulation but not too much that it’ll dry out your herbs. Then store them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer where it’s cool and humid enough for their survival.
On the other hand, tender herbs like basil, cilantro, mint should be treated differently as they tend to wilt quickly when exposed to moisture. The best way is by placing each bunch into a glass jar filled with water (like flowers) then secure a plastic bag over the top before storing in the fridge. This method keeps them hydrated while allowing proper airflow which helps prevent spoilage.
Use Herbs in Your Cooking
Sprinkle your dishes with bursts of vibrant, aromatic flavor by adding a pinch of fresh herbs like confetti on a parade float. Herbs aren’t just garnishes but also excellent seasonings that can elevate any dish to the next level. Here are some seasoning tips and herb pairing suggestions that I’ve learned from my years of experience in cooking:
Use delicate herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley as finishing touches since they tend to lose their aroma when cooked for too long.
Stronger herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano can be used at the beginning or middle of the cooking process as they need time to release their flavors.
To intensify the flavor of dried herbs, crush them between your palms before adding them to your dish.
When using garlic and onion together with herbs, sauté them first before adding the herbs to avoid burning.
By following these tips and experimenting with different herb combinations, you’ll soon discover which ones work best for each type of dish. For example, Italian cuisine usually calls for basil and oregano while French cuisine leans more towards thyme and tarragon. Don’t be afraid to mix different varieties based on your personal taste preference!
Revive Wilted Herbs
To revive wilted herbs, I always start by refreshing them with cold water. This helps to remove any dirt or debris that may be weighing them down.
Once they’re clean, I love to use wilted herbs in soups and stews for added flavor and depth of taste. They work especially well in hearty winter dishes!
Refreshing Herbs with Cold Water
Revive your herbs by giving them a cold water bath – it’s like a refreshing dip in the pool for them! I often use this trick when my herbs start to wilt or lose their vibrancy.
It’s a simple and effective way to perk up your herbs and give them new life. All you need is some clean, cold water and a few minutes of your time.
To start, fill a large bowl with cold water and gently submerge your herb stems. Let them soak for about 10-15 minutes, allowing the cool water to hydrate the leaves and revive their color. You can even add ice cubes to the water for an extra chilly boost!
After soaking, remove the herbs from the water and gently pat dry with paper towels. Your herbs should look perky and refreshed, ready to be used in any recipe or garnish.
This technique is especially useful if you plan on using fresh herbs in herb-infused drinks or freezing herbs for later use.
Using Wilted Herbs in Soups and Stews
If you’re feeling down about your wilted herbs, don’t throw them out just yet – they can still pack a punch in soups and stews, adding flavor and depth to your dishes like a hidden gem.
Here are some reviving techniques that I use to make the most out of my wilting herbs:
- Add them to soup or stew towards the end of cooking time. The heat will help revive their flavor and aroma.
- Make herb-infused oil or vinegar by steeping the wilted herbs in hot oil or vinegar for 2-3 hours.
- Dry them in the oven on low heat (200°F) for 10-15 minutes until they are crispy. You can then crumble them into soups, stews, or sauces for added texture and flavor.
- Freeze them with olive oil in an ice cube tray. Simply chop up the wilted herbs and fill each compartment with olive oil before freezing. These cubes are perfect for adding to soups, stews, roasts, or sautés.
- Use them as garnish. Even though they may not look their best anymore, they can still add a pop of color and freshness when used as a garnish on top of dishes.
In addition to these reviving techniques, there are also alternative uses for wilted herbs that you may not have considered before:
- Use them as mulch around plants in your garden. Wilted leaves can still provide nutrients to plants as they decompose.
- Compost them! Herbs are great additions to compost piles because they break down quickly and add valuable nutrients back into the soil.
So next time you see your fresh herbs starting to wilt away, don’t fret – there’s plenty you can do with them beyond just throwing them out!
In conclusion, using fresh herbs in your cooking can add a burst of flavor and nutrition to any meal. By choosing the right herbs, washing and drying them properly, storing them correctly, and using them effectively in your recipes, you can elevate your dishes to new heights.
Imagine taking a bite of a homemade pizza with freshly chopped basil sprinkled on top. The aroma alone will transport you to the streets of Italy. Or picture a simple salad with a mixture of dill and parsley adding depth and complexity to every bite.
With some knowledge and experience in handling fresh herbs, you can create culinary masterpieces that will impress even the toughest critics. So why not start incorporating more fresh herbs into your cooking today? Your taste buds (and health) will thank you!