Understand hard vs. soft herbs
- A key distinction to recognize to get the most out of your herbs is the divide between delicate “soft” herbs like basil or mint and heartier “hard” herbs like rosemary or thyme. The key distinction is that hard herbs have woodier stems and firmer leaves while soft herbs have softer stems and more tender leaves. This hugely impacts how you can use and store them.
- Hard herbs have stronger, earthier flavors that can stand up to long periods of cooking. They can also be dried to preserve them without losing their essence.
- Since they’re more tender, soft herbs can easily deteriorate when exposed to heat or when left out for too long. Therefore, they should be added only at the end of the cooking process and cannot be effectively dried. Enjoy them as quickly as possible to get the most of their flavor!
- Keep these facts in mind when making substitutions.
Store them properly
- Store soft herbs like cut flowers, with the stems submerged in a jar or glass of water in your refrigerator.
- The one key exception is basil, which does not like the chilly temperatures of your fridge and will just wilt in there. Store basil in water on your counter. It’s beautiful!
- Store hard herbs wrapped in a damp paper towel and sealed in an airtight container or bag in your refrigerator.
Let them shine in their element
- Basil is excellent thinly sliced and scattered across your next salad or anything Italian.
- Dill is great for dips, and shines alongside yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and mint!
- Mint is wonderful as a refreshing garnish for desserts but is also our favorite to use for summer cocktails as well as garnishing Asian stir-fries and soups.
- Thyme is versatile and wonderful on top of roasted or sauteed vegetables. It’s also indispensable for seasoning soups and stocks.
- Oregano pairs wonderfully with beans and beautifully accents the flavor of seasonal tomatoes.
- Sage is extremely underrated and shines alongside pasta, beans, or pork.