Whether it’s making a fresh batch of pesto or adding aroma or flavour to basic meals, fresh herbs, preferably handpicked from the garden, will do the job for you.
Since most of them are versatile, they could be used in many dishes, however, there are some classic pairings and a few combinations could be a match made in heaven! We get you the top 11 herbs you could experiment with to turn into a little Masterchef yourselves!
Essentially, there are two distinct varieties: Sweet, or Genoese, basil and Asian basils. Most often paired with tomato, basil, in Western cuisine, is popularly used across Mediterranean foods including pesto. Sweet basil is versatile and goes well with various meats and seafood. The Asian variety, on the other hand, has a distinct anise flavour and is used in curry pastes (Thai), stews, stir-fries and soups as well.
Popular Usage: For Insalata Caprese, made with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fruity olive oil.
Mint can go well with sweet and savoury dishes. The spearmint variety is the one used for cooking. Mint can be infused with a variety of dishes - ice cream, tea, mint juleps, and mojitos.
Popular Usage: Lamb dishes, Mint juleps
Rosemary may be used fresh or dried across a variety of dishes such as soups, meats, stews or sauces.
Since it has a strong flavour, it is best used sparingly for flavouring. Fresh rosemary can be stored for about a week in the fridge either in a plastic bag or stems down in a glass of water with a plastic bag around the top.
Popular Usage: As a flavouring for roasted lamb, garlic, and olive oil. It can also be used to add flavour to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, and pork.
One of the most important herbs used in European cooking, thyme also pairs well with other herbs including rosemary, parsley, sage, savoury, and oregano. Since the leaves are so small, the herbs don’t need chopping.
Popular Usage: It is popularly used in Caribbean jerk seasonings.
Cilantro, coriander, or even Chinese parsley, is a native of southern Europe and the Middle East. Cilantro packs in flavour in a variety of salsas, soups, stews, curries, salads, vegetables, fish, and chicken dishes.
Popular Usage: The roots are used to make Thai curry pastes.
Curly parsley and flat-leaf parsley (often called Italian parsley) are the two main varieties of the herb. Flat-leaf parsley is preferred over curly parsley for cooking, as it has more heat and flavour, whereas curly parsley is used mostly for garnishing.
Popular Usage: As persillade, a mixture of chopped parsley and garlic, as used in French cooking, on roasted lamb, grilled steaks, fish, chicken, and vegetables.
Put them onto the dish at the last minute, as heat can damage their delicate onion flavour. Thinly slice them to maximize taste, or use finely snipped chives as a garnish.
Popular Usage: Dips and quesadillas, and on baked potatoes.
Dill is a herb used since ancient Roman times, regarded as a symbol of vitality then. The fresh variety has a strong scent.
Popular Usage: Paired with cottage cheese, cream cheese, goat cheese, omelettes, seafood (especially salmon), cold yoghurt soups, potato salads, and all kinds of cucumber dishes.
Native to the northern Mediterranean coast, sage is frequently used in cooking across different continents. Used by the Italians for veal, the French add them to cured meats, sausages, stuffings and pork dishes. While the Americans use them for turkey and dressing. Don’t go overboard with it, or it can overwhelm a dish.
Tips to Keep Herbs Fresh
- Loosely wrap them in a damp paper towel and seal them later in an airy zip-lock bag. Refrigerate for up to five days. Keep checking them once in a while, as they could lose flavour over the days.
- Store in bunches with stems down, in a jar filled with water up to 1 inch of the stem ends. Enclose the jar in a large zip-lock bag, and keep changing the water every day. Herbs can stay as long as for 7 days using this method.
- If your supermarkets have herb plants in the store - snip off as much as you require and the herb plants will remain intact for weeks or months.
- For dried out herbs, trim 1/2 inch off the stems and keep them in ice water for a few hours.
- Wash herbs everytime prior to usage and dry them with a paper towel.
- It's best to add herbs to a dish at the end since heat kills the flavour of fresh herbs.