A great article that will help you create great recipes by using herbs. I wanted to share.
Whether you grow them yourself or buy them at the grocery store, herbs are a healthy and delicious way to season foods without extra calories.
No one wants to eat bland food, but ladling on sauces and gravies just adds excess fat and calories to your diet. Fortunately, calorie-free herbs add flavor without all that extra baggage, and they’re easy to use.
Herbs are edible, fragrant plants that add flavor and nutrients to many types of foods. By playing with herbal variations in your recipes, you can get a completely different taste every time you cook. Stock up on dried or fresh herbs at the grocery store or farmers’ market, or grow your own herbs indoors or out.
Fresh Herbs, Dried Herbs: What’s the Difference?
The biggest differences between dried herbs and fresh herbs are the taste and the potency of the herb, says registered dietitian Sandra Meyerowitz, RD, LD, MPH, founder of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Ky. Fresh herbs have a subtler, fresher taste, and you’ll need a much greater quantity of fresh herbs than dried herbs for the same taste effect. Be sure to follow recipe directions closely.
As for nutritional benefits, dried herbs and fresh herbs are similar, but not exactly the same, says Meyerowitz. “Leaving dried herbs around for a long time can diminish their potency.” Phytonutrients, the natural components in herbs that provide health benefits, diminish with age.
When choosing dried herbs, she advises, it’s best to buy organic so you’re sure the herbs have not been irradiated. When you're buying fresh herbs, whether at the grocery store or a farmers’ market, be sure to get them as close as possible to the day you plan to use them.
Preparing Fresh Herbs
Before cooking with fresh herbs, you'll need to wash them carefully. Rinse the herbs underneath running water, then place them on a paper towel or shake them off to dry. If you're cleaning large leaves like basil or a large bunch of parsley, place them in a bowl of cool water and swirl it around. Transfer the herbs to a clean bowl of water and continue to rinse until the water stays clear. Then dry them off and prepare them for cooking. Generally, you just want to use the leaves, not the stems, of the herb.
Storing Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs need air to keep them fresh. Store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag; just make sure that the bag is either open or that it has air holes poked in it. Keep them in the crisper for the most freshness.
Another way to keep herbs fresh is to place them in a glass or vase like flowers, making sure to cut off the ends immediately before placing them in about an inch of water. Put them in fresh water each day, and keep them stored in the refrigerator. Use them as soon as you can, as the flavor can become weaker with time.
Growing Your Own Herbs
Growing herbs is not difficult. Here are some herbs that won’t challenge your green thumb and will add delicious flavor to your meals:
- Oregano and basil for pasta dishes and sauces
- Rosemary and thyme for chicken and vegetable dishes
- Dill for cauliflower, cucumbers, and fish and fish sauces
- Parsley for fish, soups, vegetables, and tomato sauce
- Mint for salad, beverages, and desserts
- Marjoram for stews, soups, and eggs
- Cilantro for Mexican and Thai dishes
- Tarragon for yogurt and sour cream, beans, and roasted chicken
Besides being easy to grow, fresh herbs are convenient to just pluck as you need them, clean them, and add them to your dish. Try to pick herbs in the morning when the flavor will be best and the herbs will be at their freshest.
Growing your own herbs allows you to control how they’re grown — you can rest assured that they're pesticide-free and grown in organic soil when you have your own indoor or outdoor herb garden. You'll need to follow individual growing instructions for each herb because each one grows best in certain soil and temperature conditions; some may need sun while others prefer shade, and some may require more space to grow than others.
Whether you opt for fresh or dried, herbs are great ingredients in healthy recipes, allowing you to enjoy meals that are full of flavor, while sparing you the extra calories.