Herbs is a catch-all term to denote plants that are used to either flavor food, perfume the air, or alleviate illness. One of the oldest documented culinary herbs was Gingko biloba, which has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years.
The use of herbs in cooking is universal, with each culture having their own unique herbal repertoire that is used to make recipes more intriguing to the palate. Depending upon the plant, its flowers, roots, stems, seeds, and blossoms can be used to create aroma, intensify flavor, and conjure nuance.
Dried herbs are a way to retain a fresh plant’s flavor virtues long after its growing season has passed. The general measurement rule is one tablespoon of coarsely chopped fresh herbs is equivalent to one teaspoon of dried herbs. To fully release their flavor before adding dried herbs to a dish, rub them between your fingers to release their oils first.
It’s typically best to add dried herbs to a dish towards the end of its cooking time in order to retain as much flavor as possible. In general, air-drying works best because it enables the fresh herbs to retain more flavor than dehydrating them in an oven.
- Gather approximately seven to eight fresh plants together and bind them with a rubber band or a piece of cooking string.
- Place the herb bundle, leaf-side up, in a clean brown paper bag and gently fold over the top of the bag to form a loose seal. Using a knife tip or a toothpick, poke several holes in the bag to encourage air circulation.
- Set the bag aside in a dry place at room temperature until the herbs are completely dehydrated. They have reached this stage when they are brittle and break apart easily.
- Crumble the herbs between your fingers onto a dry plate.
- Store dried herbs in a sealed container in a cool, dark place at room temperature. They will typically keep at full flavor intensity for up to three months.
Here are some ideas on using them:
Cinnamon Thyme Tea
Cinnamon tea energizes the palate and enlivens the senses. The addition of dried thyme is an unexpected way to heighten the flavor and add even more healthful properties to this easy to prepare cup of comfort. Get the recipe.
Mashed Sweet Green Peas with Shiitakes
This side dish is easy to put together, but the addition of shiitake mushrooms packs a powerful umami punch. The dried sage deepens the flavor and the addition of bacon and your favorite cheese transforms a simple side into a substantial main dish. Get the recipe.
Lemon Dill Tartar Sauce
Dried dill and just three other ingredients combine to create a tartar sauce that is bright and creamy all at the same time. It’s the perfect accompaniment for fried and grilled fish and even works well as a dip for fresh vegetables. Get the recipe.
Dried Basil Pesto
Stuffing doesn’t have to be reserved for Thanksgiving. The dried parsley and sage in this stuffing recipe add depth that can be brightened with the addition of coarsely chopped Granny Smith apples that are added at the same time as the bread cubes. Get the recipe.
Salmon with Lemon and Oregano
This easy summer recipe incorporating dried oregano is brightened with lemon zest and is ready for the dinner table in just over ten minutes. It’s elegant enough for a dinner party but also lovely on a rushed weekday evening. Get the recipe.
— Head photo: Flickr.