Vibrant lavender and other fragrant herbs flourish in the warmer months of summer, filling the air with sweet and savory aromas. Mints are especially refreshing during the warm summer months, and others like sage, oregano, and rosemary can be used to make exceptional rubs for meats and vegetables destined for the grill. Those same versatile herbs can enhance our autumnal dishes as well, adding depth and complexity to heartier, warmer meals. Finding fresh herbs during the cooler months of the year can pose a challenge, however, but if you plan ahead now, you can enjoy the diverse flavors of herbs year round.
Drying herbs can be as easy as hanging a bouquet of fresh-picked parsley upside down in a dry place in your kitchen, out of direct light. Once fully dried, the herbs can be ground in a clean coffee grinder and stored in plastic bags or mason jars, and will maintain their flavor for months on end. Unlike fresh herbs, which should be concealed in a plastic bag or container, placed in the fridge, and used fairly quickly, dried herbs can live happily in a cupboard or pantry for months on end, so long as the area is dry and out of direct light.
Many dried herbs can used to substitute fresh in most recipes, although the flavor of fresh herbs in comparison to dry may differ. Most herbs such as mint, basil, rosemary, dill, or sage contain more flavor when fresh, and may lose the flavor when dry. In contrast herbs that grow in dry, hot climates, such as oregano, have a more intense flavor when dry.
Understanding when to add either dry or fresh herbs to your dish, and how much to use can also impact the flavor of your dish.Fresh herbs release flavor quickly, and should be added after the dish is prepared to maintain flavor. Dried herbs, on the other hand, need time to rehydrate and should be added when you begin to cook. Also, dry herbs are typically more potent and concentrated, and the amount needed is much less. The rule is simple, when converting a recipe that calls for herbs: Use three times the amount of fresh herbs that the recipe calls for to dry, and the flavor should be just right.
Purchasing fresh herbs can put a dent in your pocket, and often it may seem easier to substitute with dry. However, if the recipe calls for fresh it is probably best to use fresh. Another option is growing your own herbs. Growing your own not only saves you money, but can be just as convenient as reaching in your cabinet for the dry herbs. Most herbs require little maintenance, and grow well when placed near a window that obtains an optimal amount of sunlight. Many herbs are perennial in warm temperatures, and starting them outdoors and bringing them inside when the temperatures drop can enable you to have fresh herbs year round. There is a list of herbs provided below to help get you started.
Guest Post by Victoria Jocsing, Crabtree Farms Intern