Cooking with herbs can be a quick and simple way to add interesting flavors to foods without adding salt, sugar, or fat. The use of herbs in cooking has become more popular due to more herb selection and availability at grocery stores and farmers’ markets, along with an increase in home herb gardening.
For information on herb varieties in Ohio, contact your county educator in agriculture and natural resources at Ohio State University Extension, or a master gardener volunteer.
Harvest herbs early in the morning after the dew has evaporated. Herbs contain volatile oils which escape when their leaves and stems are damaged. Handle herbs gently to avoid bruising the plants. Select only enough herbs for immediate use unless they are to be dried or frozen. Herbs should be fresh, clean, and free of disease. Avoid herbs that are discolored or damaged.
Due to many variables such as moisture content, size, and variety, it is difficult to give specific recommendations. The recommendations below are approximations.
- 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs = ¾ teaspoon dried herbs = ¼ teaspoon powdered herbs
Many culinary herbs, both fresh and dried, have phytonutrients. Phytonutrients may help protect against chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Since the flavor and aroma of herbs deteriorates quickly after picking, immediate use is recommended.
- Wash herbs in cool running water and shake to remove excess moisture before use. Do not use soap, detergent, or bleach because these liquids absorb into the herb.
- If unable to use harvested herbs right away, trim their stems and place them in a glass with one inch of water. Cover loosely with plastic bag to allow for air circulation and place in refrigerator. Change water daily. Herbs may last for up to a week stored in this manner.
Tips about frozen herbs
- Freeze herbs at their peak freshness for best results.
- Use frozen herbs within three to six months for best quality.
- Due to the textural changes that occur after freezing, use frozen herbs in cooked dishes.
Tips about dried herbs
- Dried herbs may be three to four times stronger than fresh herbs. When using dried herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for every 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs that are needed in a recipe.
- Dried herbs can be stored for up to one year and maintain their quality.
- Store dried herbs in an air-tight container in a cool, dark area to preserve freshness.
|Anise||Pork, chicken, fish, stews, beverages, and stewed fruit. Use the seeds in baked goods.|
|Basil||Tomatoes and tomato dishes, vinegars, rice, eggs, meats, duck, salads, and vegetables.|
|Chive||Salads, stews, appetizers, vegetables, butter, yogurt, and sour cream sauces.|
|Dill||Fish and fish sauces, cottage cheese, breads, beets, cucumbers, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and salads.|
|Fennel||Tomato dishes, eggs, fish, marinades for meats, carrots, pickles, breads, and baked goods.|
|Marjoram||Stews, soups, meats, tomato dishes, vegetables, eggs, breads, and French dressing.|
|Mint||Salads, lemonade, tea, potatoes, scallops, sauces and jelly, sherbet, lamb, and fruit.|
|Oregano||Italian tomato sauces, barbecue sauce, soups, eggs, cheese, pork, vegetables, and salad dressings.|
|Parsley||Tomato sauces, fish, meats and poultry, soups, stews, and vegetables.|
|Rosemary||Lamb, pork, vegetables, chowders, and cheese.|
|Sage||Fish, meat, poultry stuffing, chowders, soups, and tomatoes.|
|Savory||Pork, chowders, stews, fish, eggs, salads, beans, and biscuits.|
|Tarragon (French)||Eggs, yogurt and sour cream dishes, meat, asparagus, beans, and cucumbers.|
|Thyme (Lemon or English)||Stews, clam chowder, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, stuffing, bread, biscuits, lima beans, broccoli, and onions.|
Herbed Cream Cheese
- 1-pound low-fat cream cheese
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves
- ¼ teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves
- ⅛ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Place cream cheese and butter in food processor or mixer.
- Add garlic and herbs and blend.
- Serve with crackers.
For more information on preserving herbs, go to ohioline.osu.edu or contact your local Ohio State University Extension office for the following fact sheet:
Paur, Ingvild, Monica H. Carlsen, Bente Lise Halvorsen, and Rune Blomhoff. 2011. “Antioxidants in Herbs and Spices.” In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, edited by Iris FF Benzie and Sissi Wachtel-Galor. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92763.
Smith, Ronald, and Julie Garden-Robinson. From Garden to Table: Harvesting Herbs for Healthy Eating. Fargo: North Dakota State University, 2016. PDF. ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/from-garden-to-table-harvesting-herbs-for-healthy-eating/h1267.pdf.
Tufts University. 2017. “Maximizing Flavor with Herbs and Spices.” Health & Nutrition Letter. May 5, 2017. nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/13_6/specialreports/Maximizing-Flavor-with Herbs-and Spices_2166-1.html.