This is the time of year that most people begin to put their gardens to bed. But if you’ve been growing herbs this summer, the season isn’t over – yet. Here is some sage advice for using your bounty in cooking.
Although there are no rules when cooking with herbs, here are general guidelines:
- Try experimenting using small amounts of herbs to see what you like. Start with a well-tested recipe and adjust it over time to suit individual tastes.
- Use strong herbs in small amounts. Herbs should enhance not overwhelm the flavor of food.
- As a general rule, fresh herbs should be added near the end of the cooking time. Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh.
- Herbs can be used individually or blended for a variety of flavors.
- Crushing or grinding herbs provides more flavor than using them whole.
- Add whole dried herbs at the start of cooking for recipes that will cook an hour or longer, such assoups and stews.
- Crushed or ground herbs should be added 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
Substituting dried for fresh
If a recipe calls for fresh herbs but you have only dried, the general substitution equivalent is 1 teaspoon crumbled dried herbs for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs. Approximately 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herbs can be substituted for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs.
Dried herbs are sensitive to light, heat, air, and moisture. They generally keep their flavor for one year. Store in small containers until you know how much you will use. Be sure to label the container with the harvest date. To determine if a dried herb or spice is still potent, rub a small amount between your fingers. If it has a fresh aroma, it probably can be used in cooking.
Flavor and color loss can be prevented by following these guidelines:
- Keep dried herbs in a tightly covered container away from light, moisture, and heat.
- Most fresh herbs are perishable and bunches should be stored with their stems in water in the refrigerator.
- Loose leaves can be packed in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator vegetable drawer. Pat excess water with a paper towel; too much moisture promotes spoilage.
- Fresh herbs can be air-dried for long-term storage by tying stems together with string and hanging them in a dark, clean, well-ventilated area.
- Freezing fresh herbs in airtight containers retains more flavor than other methods. Smaller amounts may be frozen in ice cube trays.
Even, J. (2002). Spice Up Your Life With Herbs. Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.
Henneman, A. Add a Little Spice (& HERBS) to Your Life! University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, Lancaster County.