Using Herbs In Cooking
What kind of herbs do I need to plant for cooking?
Do you have high blood pressure or have been told by your doctor to reduce your sodium intake? If so, consider planting herbs in your garden this summer to add flavor to your recipes without adding extra salt. Herbs are easy to grow, and nothing tastes better than the flavor of fresh herbs. Not sure which herbs to plant? Here are some common ones you will want to have in your garden.
- Basil makes a great start to any herb garden. It is both beautiful and functional. It is a great herb to have in a variety of dishes. It goes perfect in Italian food, of course, but try adding it to other foods. Basil will grow all summer long, but it prefers the cooler months, however, it does not tolerate frost. Basil will come back each year, but I usually get impatient and plant a new plant so I can enjoy its freshness earlier.
- Chamomile has pretty flowers that can be dried and added to tea as well as salads.
- The feathery leaves of a dill plant will be attractive as well as delicious in many dishes. Dill is a must for canning summer pickles!
- Oregano is wonderful in a variety of dishes other than Italian. It is invasive so keep an eye on it otherwise it will take over your herb garden.
- Parsley comes in many varieties, so you can plant more than one. This herb does not like hot weather. Keep it shaded and it will grow all year long!
- Rosemary is my all-time favorite herb to grow. Not only is it great in a lot of recipes, but it is also a nice ornamental plant for your garden. Rosemary is easy to grow and will last all year long.
- Sage is a hardy plant that will have leaves available for a long season. With extremely cold temperatures this winter, mine did not survive. I will be planting it again. Beautiful leaves and aroma.
- Thyme is a great perennial that makes a lovely garden border, smells heavenly, and is delicious.
Before planting do some research on herbs. Make sure they will grow well for you in your growing conditions. Our zone allows for most herbs to grow well. You will also need to consider moisture requirements which vary by plant. Choose a location that gets morning sun if possible.
When do I pick my herbs?
Herbs are at their peak of flavor first thing in the morning. Pick them before they start to flower for best flavor. You can harvest the seed heads once they go to seed and plant them again next year. Use sharp scissors for harvesting herbs and take your cuttings from all around the plant. Small tender sections on the plant are better than old, woody growth.
How do I store herbs?
Herbs can be frozen or dried for long-term storage. To store in the freezer; wash and chop the herb and add olive oil (1 part:3 parts) and freeze in ice cube trays. Dry herbs using a dehydrator, your oven on low setting, or hanging for at least 2 weeks. Once dry pack in jars, seal & store out of direct light. Dried herbs stay fresh for 7-8 weeks.
When it is time to use herbs in cooking, keep this in mind:
- Use ½ to 1/3 the amount of dried herbs in a recipe calling for fresh herbs. Add a little at a time and taste until you get the flavor you desire.
- Herbs not finely ground or cooked tender should be removed before serving.
- Add herbs for the final 30 minutes of cooking to maximize flavor.
The Howard County Extension Service has a couple of great handouts on using herbs in cooking. You can contact our office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse and ask for “Herbs and Spices” and/or “Seasoning Blends to Make”.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Latino Blend Seasoning Recipe
Use this recipe to make your own taco seasoning. This recipe is from the DASH Diet Cooking School which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. If you are interested in learning more, contact the Extension Office.
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cilantro
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- Mix together well.
- Yields: 1 ¼ Tablespoons.
By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852