Hints on Herbs

HerbsTired of boring, tasteless meals? Pining for fresh summer flavors?  Try herbs!

Whether fresh or dried, herbs are a wonderful and healthy way to add flavor to many dishes. The following are some tips to make the most of your herbs.

  • Keep it fresh. Throw out old herb and herb seasoning blends.  Spice Advice recommends these tips for an annual freshness check:

1. Open and visually check if the spice or herb looks fresh. Green, leafy herbs will fade upon aging. Be aware; however, that different herbs naturally vary in color  and should not always be compared against each other.

For example, tarragon is naturally greener in color than rosemary. Additionally, some dill products contain the flower portion, giving them a more yellow color than those without the flowers.  Red colored spices, such as paprika, red pepper and chili powder will turn from red to brown in color.

2.  Crush a small amount of the spice or herb in your hand and smell it. If the aroma is not rich, full and immediate, the spice or herb has probably lost much of its potency. (Exception: Whole spices, such as peppercorns and cinnamon stick, have a protective outer coating and will not release its full fragrance until broken or crushed.)

3.  Compare the aroma (Be aware, however, that subtle changes may also occur with each new crop.) of a freshly purchased spice or herb to that which you’ve stored for a year or more to see the difference.

  • Store it well. Herbs, whether home dried or store bought, should be kept in cool, dry places away from sunlight and in containers with tight-fitting lids. Some fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, dill, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme should be stored at 32°F; while other herbs such as basil are cold sensitive and should be stored at 50°F. For more information on herb storage visit Spice Advice.
  • Cook it, Don’t Kill It. To get the most flavor out of your herbs, add them at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning. If multiplying a recipe for a party, multiply your herbal additions as follows. If increasing the recipe by 100%, increase the amount of herbs by 100%. After the first 100%, only increase the herbs by 50% as much as the original amount.

For more tips on cooking with herbs and a history of herbs check out Spice Advice.

Meredith Hink MS, RD, CD

I am a Corporate Dietitian with a foodservice distribution company. My professional areas of interest include food safety and sanitation, food marketing, food law, and vegetarian nutrition. In my spare time I am an avid food photographer and enjoy spending time with my husband and two dogs.

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