If you’re not cooking with fresh, organic herbs, you’re doing it wrong!
The Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Cooking With Fresh Herbs
As the holidays are once again rolling around, collective attention turns towards the table and what we’ll all be adorning it with, and more importantly what we’ll be putting in our stomachs. While I absolutely love to create centerpieces of all sorts, and also love my fair share of fine tableware, I’m here to urge you to focus on fresh herbs for the holidays! If you don’t already cook everything, and especially special holiday meals, with fresh herbs – you’re doing it wrong! Put down the small dusty jars of expired powders, dried leaves, and the like and look to your garden or windowsill for fresh herbs!
Learning to cook with fresh herbs was a revolutionary moment in my culinary evolution. It really was the moment when I went from simply making food to eat, to cooking food to truly enjoy. Growing up, the cooks in my family were mainly my grandmothers and they were of the generation of red-lidded bottles of spices lined neatly in a cabinet. I don’t remember paying much attention to their use, with the exception being cinnamon of course. Their provenance was not even a thought in my mind. Post cooking revolution self, I pay loads of attention to herbs, where they come from, and to their freshness, and you should too!
Let me break down the ways in which I love using fresh herbs:
1. Harvest Satisfaction
It’s hard to describe just how satisfying it is to nourish yourself from your own backyard or windowsill. Being able to quickly snip a handful of parsley or a sprig of thyme while cooking is actually rather exciting. Not only do you get the flavor and freshness of the herbs from an immediate harvest, but you’re encouraging new growth on the plant and keeping the plant from going to flower then seed.
Fresh herbs are packed with flavor! Want to make any dish taste better? Add some fresh herbs, or better yet add a few different fresh herbs together. Using loads of fresh herbs can also help you cut back on added salt and fats, making your food taste delicious without excessive salt or fat.
I think I may have started cooking due to the allure of chopping alone. Might sound ridiculous, but I have always been intrigued by knife skills and skilled choppers when it comes to cooking. With herbs, you get to regularly use some of my favorite knife skills – chiffonade, chopping, and dicing.
Fresh herbs are vibrantly green! Take parsley for example, if you use a handful of chopped parsley in a dish, you add amazing bright and dark green to whatever you’re cooking. Hold off on adding the herbs until the last minute when cooking to retain their vibrance and flavor.
What is better than crushing a fresh herb in your hand and then taking a deep inhalation of its aroma? Not much in my opinion.
6. Freshness & Nutrition
Harvesting them direct from your garden or windowsill ensures that your herbs are fresh. Fresh aroma, fresh flavor, fresh color, all packed with the maximum nutritional benefit. Many herbs are full of vitamins and minerals, have antioxidant effects, and can help to support a healthy immune system.
7. They grow back!
One of the things I love about herbs is that you can pinch and clip your herbs and they’ll keep growing and growing! In fact, they’ll love you for it. Many herbs are even perennial here in the Northeast. They’re your little flavor friends that help you celebrate spring every year with their return!
8. Add them to Tea
Common culinary herbs can be used beyond the dinner plate, steeped fresh herbs are a great addition to teas at any time of the year. Fresh mint tea is soothing to the stomach while adding fresh thyme to tea can help fend off the common cold and flu.
There is a reason that chefs have garnished dishes with fresh herbs forever! Adding a sprig of any herb to a plate instantly grounds and beautifies the dish. Going one step further and sprinkling chopped herbs overtop a dish right as it’s about to be served instantly elevates its appearance and flavor!
10. They’re Addictive
Once you start growing and cooking with herbs, you’ll want to increase the space allotment of your herb garden and the budget for your herb starts! Start with the basics and keep building and growing your collection of herbs every year so that you have the perfect herb for any recipe or dish. Perennial herbs like thyme, sage, oregano, and chives make great staples for your herb garden that can be enjoyed year after year and you can use them as the foundation for an abundant herb garden each year.
My love for culinary herbs is seemingly endless. Spread the chopped and fragrant joy this holiday season by using fresh, local, and organic herbs to garnish and flavor your dishes. Let it inspire you to start cooking regularly with herbs and find out for yourself how much joy you can get out of chopping a fresh, green bunch of Italian Parsley or from chiffonading a handful of basil leaves for your next pizza.
Peace Tree Farm supplies fresh, certified organic living herbs year round to Wegmans Food Stores throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey produce departments. In the spring and summer time, Peace Tree Farm supplies local growers and garden centers with a wide range of certified organic herb starts perfect for your burgeoning herb garden!