In the early days of this past summer I harvested a lot of basil. The idea was to give it away so people could use and enjoy it. In the process of handing it out, I was floored by how many questions I got about how you use it. Then when I thought about it more, it made a lot of sense. The ways you use fresh and dry herbs, and even their nutritional content, are very different.
What dried herbs are good for
Dry herbs are wonderful. They are easy to get your hands on, versatile and often cheaper than getting the fresh stuff. On top of that, they are full of antioxidants. Even more then their fresh counterparts. The process of drying and grinding ends up condensing the herbs. This means that for every 3 teaspoons of fresh herbs, you only need 1 of dried.
When you’re cooking, dry herbs are ideal for things like sauces and soups that will simmer, allowing the flavors to infuse into your food.
When to use fresh herbs
Fresh herbs like basil are jam-packed with flavor. Even just having them freshly cut in a room, the smell can permeate the area. However, despite their strong aroma you will need a lot of it if you want to make something like a pesto.
As you cook down fresh herbs they’ll lose some of their flavor. They’re best added toward the end of the cooking process or prepared cold.
One downside of fresh herbs is that they don’t keep for long. Depending on where you store it, some herbs can go bad within a couple of days so make sure you have plans to use them promptly.
The bottom line
Basil, oregano, rosemary, turmeric – herbs and spices are full of wonderful qualities and flavors. Dried herbs are often more convenient, last longer and retain their health benefits. Sometimes though, you want the punch of flavor that fresh can give you. No matter what you prefer, cooking with herbs is a wonderful way to improve your meals, both the taste and the health content.