Herbs can help you to perform cooking miracles, but only if you know how to get the most out of them. For example, something as simple as how your herbs are stored can make the difference between food that tastes pretty good, and food that can make your taste buds come alive.
Here are some things every home cook should know about herbs.
What Are Herbs?
Herbs and spices are often grouped together when talk turns to seasoning food. But they are actually two separate categories of seasonings.
A spice can be almost anything, including a seed, a root, a fruit, or even the bark from a tree. Cinnamon, one of the most popular spices on the planet, is made from tree bark.
Herbs, on the other hand, are the green, leafy parts of certain plants. Technically, herbs are vegetables. However, unlike a “true” vegetable like spinach or kale, herbs are rarely, if ever, eaten on their own. Instead, they are used to season and add flavor to other foods.
And unlike spices, which are almost always dried before use, herbs can be used fresh or dry.
Fresh Herbs vs. Dried Herbs: The Great Debate
Some insist that you should only use fresh herbs, and cooking with anything else is a crime against food. Others maintain that foods cooked with dried herbs can taste just as good.
When it comes right down to it, you should cook with any kind of herb you want. Fresh herbs do have a more “fresh” taste, but some people actually prefer the taste of dried herbs. And dried herbs can certainly be more convenient, especially if you don’t have your own herb garden to harvest from when it’s time to cook dinner.
Here’s a tip for you. If you’re cooking from a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, you can substitute dried herbs instead. However, dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, so cut the amount to between 1/4 and 1/2, depending on the herb. For example, if a recipe calls for a tablespoon of fresh thyme, use a third of a tablespoon of dried thyme.