Excuse me if you actually ARE a master and have already learned how to use herbs in your food. I’m actually talking to myself and musing out loud. It’s something I have been pondering this question quite some time. Also, why is it that garden centers at the home improvement stores only stock basic herb plants?
Is this something that you’ve noticed, too?
I absolutely believe that parsley, cilantro, thyme, basil, and oregano are splendid, splendid herbs. So yes, all the happy clapping that these are stocked. But whatever happened to old-fashioned herbs like summer and winter savory, sorrel, skirret, rue, purslane, lovage, Good King Henry, costmary, borage, chervil, and lemon balm?
Perhaps the answer is that we stopped learning how to use herbs in our food when we stopped growing them.
Are you growing fresh herbs?
Every year I throw a few herbs in pots and a planter on my back porch during the summer and keep enough growing so that I don’t have to go to the grocery story and purchase any in those little plastic packets.
The dream is to have a greenhouse and go wild and crazy with all the herbs… but for now, a plant here and there will do.
This year I stuck with the aforementioned basics: parsley, cilantro, thyme, basil, oregano, and chives. We had months of rain that pretty much confused me on when to actually get the herb garden out, so I delayed my purchase. Which meant going to a big box store. Which meant I wasn’t able to plant any out-of-the-ordinary herbs. Other than nasturtiums, which are edible flowers and are not really an herb, per se.
Watching those simple herbs flourish on my deck makes me happy. If you grow fresh herbs, do you feel the same way?
Do you wonder how to use fresh herbs?
I was browsing vintage cookbooks at a local bookstore and randomly flipped to a page that talked about how herbs became back in vogue after the prohibition, stating, “husbands and children began to complain that their food no longer tasted like food but only like herbs, herbs, herbs.”
This was 1945, mind you. Funny how I thought homemakers knew what to do with herbs way back when.
Have you ever really thought about how to use herbs in your foods?
I mean, really, really, reallllllly thought about it?
Perhaps it is time to step up our herb game. Herbs properly used immeasurably enrich food flavors (quoting from the vintage book again). And, I agree.
The herbs we use should not necessarily be tasted but should merely add depth and interest to the flavor of a dish.
Mind-boggling, right? It’s not the herby flavor that we want, it’s the way the herbs enhance a dish. That’s what we want.
So, how do we do this?
How do we experiment?
We play with our herbs.
Take the humble parsley, for example. Open any French cookbook (especially vintage) and the humble herb will make it’s way into just about any dish, from soups, to omelets, scrambled eggs, fish sauces, stuffings, chopped on carrots, peas, potatoes, beans and butter. Ohhhhh parsley added to butter is a delight!
And let’s not forget about chives! If you want to do something right now, today, as in step away from the screen, go scramble an egg, and add some chopped chives to it.
You’ll never go back.
Which now brings us to dried herbs.
Dried herbs are wonderful! Dried herbs are our friends and should definitely be invited into our hopscotch circle!
Remember those chives you added to your eggs? Oooooooh, switch them up with dried chives because dried chives are amazzzzzzing!
Remember those parsley leaves you chopped and added to your sauce? Go on, take a finger pinch to dried parsley and toss it in. Go on and tosssssss with abandonment! Add them to your roast chicken. Add them to just about everything savory and delicious!
Joyful food is having fun with your food. Experimenting is fun! And best of all, cooking with herbs is not complicated!
Dried herbs are wonderful and if you find yourself at the end of the summer growing season with pots full of herbs, dry them. Make them into tea. Grind them up in a food processor with salt and make your own seasoning. Give them away as gifts and tell yourself, “Look at me! I’m a farmer!”
Which brings me back to my original question…
When did we stop learning how to use herbs in our food?
The answer is never.
Keep learning, friends.
PS // I am going to start posting more herb-forward recipes, so keep coming back or subscribe to my newsletter so I can send you recipe links to your inbox. Thanks!