Herbs are nothing more complicated than aromatic leaves and sometimes flowers that are both edible and flavorful. To preserve the flavor and aroma they are frequently dried, but many of them are just as popular in the fresh form and far richer this way.
The fresh leafy tops of celery are excellent for perking up soups and an essential ingredient in homemade chicken broth. If you have more leaves than you can use, you’ll find home drying a great money saving trick.
Soak the leaves in cold water to clean and pat dry with absorbent paper. Spread on paper (wax, parchment) and let dry slowly, exposed t o the air at room temperature until crumbly. Do not dry in direct sunlight. Store these and all of your home dried herbs in a tightly covered jar for future use.
Chives are sold as a growing plant. The plant is usually jammed into a tiny container and dies because the roots are too plentiful for the pot. You can have a long-lasing source of this herb in your kitchen if you replant it in a larger pot and continually cut the tops so your chive shoots remain upright. Chives are a member of the onion family. Although much milder, and can be used uncooked to flavor cheese dips, sauces, and spreads. Try adding chives to cottage cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise to accentuate the taste.
Fresh dill makes everything taste like spring. You probably know dill in the taste of dill pickles. Its use extends to soup (particularly potato and white bean) and salads as well. Add fresh dill and lemon to fish salads or combine the chopped herb with sour cream for a fish sauce.
Mint may be sold fresh or dried in your market. Add the leaves to yogurt for a refreshing salad. Also good in fruit mixtures and steeped in boiling water for a Mid-Eastern tea. For an instant breath refresher, chew a few mint leaves.
Fresh parsley, often used as a garnish only to be pushed to the side of the plate, is actually a fine source of vitamin A and C and vegetable protein. It is also rich in chlorophyll to make your breath rich and sweet-both cheaper and healthier than mouthwash. Use fresh parsley to season soups, salads, stuffing’s, breadcrumb coatings and thousands of other meat and vegetable dishes. To store this herb, wash, chop and keep in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you need a spoonful, dip into the freezer stock; it thaws almost instantaneously. The dried form doesn’t compare in flavor or nutrition.
Kali S. Winters