Which chef or a cook in the world wouldn’t love to stroll into a lush green garden of homegrown cabbages, lettuces, tomatoes, fingerling potatoes and rows of sweet, savory herbs? Fresh herbs are just marvelous, nothing can beat them. There is no gainsaying that the texture, colour and aroma of fresh culinary herbs is superior to dried herbs.
Flavors that fresh herbs bring to any dish make it extremely delicious and tantalizing to the palate and leave you asking for more. The fragrance of the fresh herbs will definitely egg you on to take that leap towards venturing into creating your own herb garden.
A few reasons why herbs should be a part of our regular diets:
o Fresh herbs are a lot healthier than the dried herbs. Drying makes them lose their essential oils and many nutrients.
o Fresh herbs score high in anti-oxidants which are known to help us fortify ourselves against strokes and cancer. They are on par with fruits and vegetables in this aspect.
o They are also rich in vitamins and minerals.
o They are crucial for any sumptuous food with their natural flavors that help eliminate the need of harmful add-ons like salt, fat, sugar and preservatives.
o Fresh herbs should be added towards the end of the cooking when it is just done, to ensure and preserve their fragrance and color.
Herbs are known in the culinary world for their tangy aroma. Most of us can slice, chop and dice but the real craft of cooking comes from mastering and enhancing the flavor and seasoning the ingredients with herbs. The best way of getting a first hand feeling is by using your own home grown herbs.
Best time to harvest the herbs is at dawn, when the dew has evaporated and the sun is not at its peak. While harvesting herbs, one has to take care of handling them gently so that the delicate leaves are not damaged and the natural oils retained. The herbs derive their aromas and zests from the oil, and lose it rapidly if the leaves, seeds and stems are injured or dried. Harvest an appropriate quantity of herbs as and when necessary that can be used the same day optimally without the need for storage. Herbs should look clean and fresh and not discolored and bruised.
Experiment with other herbs that are not so popular or under-rated than the traditional herbs like
Borage, Lovage, Asparagus and Fenugreek. You never know, you might come out with an exquisite cuisine that may just taste great.
Tips for Using Fresh Herbs
o Chop fresh basil leaves and add it to tea, green salads, soups and juice.
o Add a dash of surprise to the dining table with herb oils in place of butter or dips. Herb oils are perfect for crusty multi-grain breads and baguettes, try with a seeded loaf for extra crunch and texture.
o For a fresh take on crudites, dip blanched snow peas or pencil asparagus.
o Splash a little balsamic or champagne vinegar for zesty vinaigrettes, stir into mayonnaise for extra ‘punch’ on a sandwich.
o Brush finely diced herbs onto fish, poultry or vegetables for a delicious infusion before grilling.
o Add freshly chopped rosemary and sage leaves to the simmering beef stew for a delectable dinner.
o Add balmy leaves of fresh chives and dill to get an adorable potato salad.
o Marinate chicken with fresh and coarsely chopped rosemary, minced garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for a luscious flavour.
o Always use fresh aromatic herbs in beverages and salad preparations, mix chopped herbs only a few hours before serving to keep flavors crisp and distinct.
Consider giving a fresh or a dry herb bouquet as a gift! A bundle of delicate fresh herbs can make a powerful impact and bring summer’s fresh flavors to the palette and the party.
Fresh herb bouquet : The preparation requires cleaning the fresh cut herbs and preparing a bouquet of bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and summer savory or the finest herb combination that blends well for a gift which includes chervil, tarragon, chives and basil.
Dry herb bouquet: Before drying herbs, wash the herbs and pat them dry to prevent mold. Tie together with kitchen twine if you wish to tie it into a bundle. Hang upside down in a dry, dark place as sunlight will fade the flavors. Once dried, herbs will last two to three months in an airtight container. A bundle of herbs bring summer’s magic to winter favorites, such as hearty stews and are relished long after summer is gone.