Using less salt to reduce sodium in recipes may make you feel like you are losing flavor, but you can boost flavor with fresh or dried herbs!
The American Heart Association has a page dedicated to using fresh herbs on their website. Check it out for more healthy living tips!
Below are some popular summertime herbs and how to best use them:
One of the more popular herbs in the United States, basil has many varieties. Perhaps the most common are sweet (Italian) basil and Thai purple basil. Both are floral and clove-like, with powerful sweetness and a hint of pepper. Although most commonly associated with Mediterranean cooking, basil is a fragrant companion to Asian and Indian foods and adds a refreshing balance to spicier dishes.
For maximum flavor and to prevent browning, add basil at the end of cooking. Remove the leaves and discard the stems, as the leaves hold the most flavor. Basil is a delightful accompaniment to summer tomatoes, grilled chicken, curry and mozzarella cheese.
Otherwise known as the coriander leaf, cilantro is bright and refreshing with a zesty lemon flavor. Some find it “soapy,” (there’s a scientific reason why!) and American consumers are pretty well divided on whether they love or hate it. The herb is a staple in Latin American and Asian cooking.
Like most herbs, cilantro can be eaten raw or cooked, and it has the ability to bring the dullest sauces to life with its invigorating flavor profile.
Parsley is perhaps the most versatile and popular herb in the world. It has a subtle flavor that adds freshness and bite. Although the leaves hold the most flavor, the stems can be equally potent.
Use it to garnish a soup or toss with summer greens for a crisp salad. It also makes easy seasoning for stocks.
This cool, bright herb has a similar flavor profile to basil. Though it’s most commonly associated with desserts, mint is a key player in savory dishes.
For a more traditional approach, use mint to garnish a fresh fruit arrangement or toss it into fresh lemonade.
Tough and woody, rosemary is a pungent herbal stalk that pairs best with full-flavored and robust meats. The leaves can be used fresh or dried.
Rosemary’s pine-like flavor lends itself to hearty meals like lamb chops, pork tenderloin and roasted potatoes. But don’t let the hearty pairings fool you; rosemary is just as tasty with light summer fare.
A staple in French cooking and a key ingredient in herbes de Provence, thyme is a pungent herb with a thin woody stem and tiny leaves. The leaves are aromatic and floral with a strong but understated taste. For best results, strip the leaves from the stems (like rosemary) and chop before use.
Thyme is a classic addition to roast chicken but can also be used in bread and desserts.
A bouquet of wispy, fragrant fronds, Dill weed is a tangy herb most commonly associated with Scandinavian and German cooking. Its delicate strands boast a strong flavor of clean, fresh earthiness.
It’s ideal for poultry and a complement to lemon, yogurt and seafood. Be sure to sneak fresh dill into your next chicken soup or salad.
Often confused for green grass, chives are a garlicky relative of the onion. They have a bold yet refined flavor, making them one of the most versatile ingredients in a cook’s arsenal. What’s more, the whole plant is edible-including the bright purple flowers that sprout in spring.
Use chives as a garnish for a simple omelet or as a main ingredient.
How to Store Fresh Herbs
After purchasing a bunch of fresh herbs, wash and dry them thoroughly to remove any sand or dirt. Wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and place in a Ziploc bag. The moisture from the paper towel will preserve the freshness and lifespan of these finicky little leaves for an extra few days.
If you follow the proper care, fresh herbs can last for up to three weeks. Below is a quick list of the most common herbs and their average life span. When the herbs start to turn dark, brittle or the stems show signs of mold, it’s time to toss them.
Parsley – 3 weeks
Dill – 3 weeks
Cilantro – 3 weeks
Mint – 2 weeks
Tarragon – 3 weeks
Basil – 2 weeks
Rosemary – 3 weeks
Oregano – 2 weeks
Thyme – 2 weeks
Sage – 2 weeks
Savory – 2 weeks
Chives – 1 week
How to Freeze Herbs
Don’t let that bumper crop of parsley go to waste. Chop herbs finely, place in ice cube trays, cover with water or olive oil and freeze. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag. Take out cubes as needed to add to stews, soups and casseroles. Frozen herbs will be too limp to use as a garnish.