It’s hard to come up with a savory dish that doesn’t benefit from the addition of fresh herbs. The problem is you spend money on them, use a little in a recipe and the rest ends up wilting in the fridge. It takes some work to maintain fresh herbs, but it’s a choice between spending time or spending money.
I’m lucky to live in Southern California where I can grow all year long. There were a few weeks this winter when the tempatures dropped and I had to move my plants indoors every night, but other than that I’ve been pretty successful with my little back porch “garden”. The only real hiccup was when the Santa Ana winds came in strong and literally blew half my planters off the table. What a depressing day that was.
So I’m down a couple pots, but currently I have a nice trio consisting of basil, my favorite, parsley, which goes great on any dish, and mint, which is looking a little picked over in the photo because I added a bunch to my detox waters. It’s awesome to walk outside and get what I need right from the plant. When we have to move again for my husband’s next assignment (he’s in the Navy), we plan on buying a home and my one requirement is a yard where I can plant not just herbs, but vegetables too.
There are plenty of ways to start your own herb garden. You can do it the old fashioned way with some seeds, planters and soil, but there’s shortcuts. You can find indoor and outdoor kits that come with everything you need to grow and maintain your herbs. You could also buy them already growing from a nursery, so all you have to do is transplant them and keep them alive.
If you don’t live in a climate that’s warm all year long, the indoor garden is a good option. If you don’t have the counter space for that, you can freeze fresh herbs for the winter. Harvest what you have before it gets cold and put them in an ice cube tray with olive oil. You can thaw them out at needed or even throw a couple cubes into a pan for making sauces or stir frys.
I’ve really learned to utilize my freezer more in the past few months. I hate wasting food and money. I’ll definitely write a post soon on how I prep and freeze to get a head start on meals and save ingredients from ending up in the trash. But I digress.
I completely believe fresh herbs are worth the time. Like I said, most meals can be enhanced by them. The dry stuff in the little plastic cylinders is just fine, but I find there’s a big difference in flavor and fragrance from going fresh. Even my back porch smells like mint and basil everyday, it’s lovely.
Leftovers can really benefit from herbs. How often do you have boring pizza from the night before in the fridge? Heat it up (in a skillet, oven or toaster oven, never the microwave!) and throw some fresh torn basil on top. If you make a big pot of soup to keep in the fridge, don’t throw in all the herbs you have. Make sure to save some and after its warmed up, garnish each serving to really bring out that fresh taste.
I use herbs almost every day. If you don’t, and you cook a lot, I would highly suggest getting familiar with them. It’s up to you how much you want to invest in them. I think it’s really fun to grow my own. The dried herbs are essential too, I have a whole shelf in my pantry for them. You need them for seasoning proteins, crusts, breading etc. But that extra punch from adding fresh herbs is really brings a dish together and helps create a finished presentation.
So how do you use herbs in your cooking? What’s your favorite? Let me know!