Fragrant, flavorful herbs enhance all kinds of foods, from main dishes and side dishes to salads, soups, sauces and more. The three recipes shown at right features some delightful summer herbs. They include Chicken with Herb Sauce, Tarragon Cheese Loaf and Herbed Tortilla Rounds.
Basics of Selecting Herbs
If herbs aren't harvested soon enough and the plants form flowers, the flavor in the leaves can diminish and become bitter. Picking leaves regularly will encourage the plants to continue growing.
When harvesting herbs, most plants should be trimmed above leaf buds, where the plant branches out. But woody herbs like rosemary should be cut at the point at which new branches grow off a central stem. (The central stem should not be cut, because this will slow new growth.)
Not a gardener? Summer is a great time to buy fresh herbs at your grocery store or a farmer's market. When selecting harvested herbs, pick firm stalks with leaves that are not wilted or bruised.
If you have a choice between whole leaves or rubbed or chopped herbs, choose whole leaves. They keep their flavor longer than rubbed or chopped herbs.
Herbs and Uses
Basil: Licorice-like flavor is good in tomato and pasta dishes as well as dips, soups, salads, meats and vegetables; a traditional ingredient in pesto.
Chives: Mild onion flavor complements many savory dishes; often snipped and sprinkled as garnish.
Mint: Refreshing addition to desserts, fruit dishes and beverages; makes a pretty garnish.
Oregano: Peppery flavor is common in pizza and pasta sauces; often used to season meats, soups, stews and chili.
Parsley: Peps up salads, sauces and soups; also a popular garnish.
Rosemary: Somewhat piney flavor is popular with roasted meats; also complements cheese and tomato-based sauces.
Sage: Camphor-like flavor is good with pork and other meat dishes as well as bean and vegetable soups.
Tarragon: Mild licorice-like flavor seasons chicken, fish, egg and cheese recipes as well as salad dressings and creamy sauces.
Thyme: Rich earthy taste complements stuffing, soups, stews, beef, chicken, fish and vegetables.