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Home Cooking

Dried versus fresh herbs and spices: when do you favor the former or the latter?

gfr1111 | May 2, 201505:48 AM     24

I grew up in the 1960s in northwest Indiana in a small town and had no car (too young). I got interested in cooking when about 10 and always used dried herbs and spices because I had never heard of fresh ones; the local grocery store did not carry them; and all the recipes I tried either designated dried herbs and spices or did not say.

When people started using fresh ones, it was quite a revelation. Many recipes improved immensely, especially salads. But a funny thing happened: I discovered that sometimes fresh herbs and spices are milder than dried ones and sometimes they are far stronger. I've read experts who counsel you to, "Throw out all your dried spices. Only use fresh ones!" But I'm skeptical. It seems to me a mixed bag.

I prefer dried oregano on my pizza to fresh. Dried oregano seems to impart much more flavor and fresh oregano just withers and disappears, even if integrated into the tomato sauce (to protect it and keep it moist). At least, I don't much notice the taste of the oregano, if it is fresh.

On the other hand, fresh basil sprinkled over the pizza once it is out of the oven, is much more flavorful than dried basil incorporated into the pizza.

Or take Bearnaise sauce--the sauce is much more flavorful using fresh tarragon than dried tarragon.

So my question is: When do you used dried and when do you use fresh for maximum herb/spice flavor? Is there a rule? What's you experience with different herbs and spices?

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