1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Essential herbs

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by modelmaker, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I noticed we're almost out of dried herbs this evening. I grow parsley, thyme and basil on the windowsill so all's not entirely lost. I live in a village about 10 miles away from civilisation with a tiny and poorly-stocked minimarket that only keeps "mixed herbs". So when we next go into town I need to remember to stock up again.
    The thing is, though, it occurs to me that there's little information for new cooks about what to expect from some herbs. How do you describe to someone who doesn't know, the difference in flavour between Oregano and Tarragon? Which choice of herb could spoil a dish and which brings it to life?
    What range of herbs do you feel you absolutely need, and will almost certainly die without them?
     
  2. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    I noticed we're almost out of dried herbs this evening. I grow parsley, thyme and basil on the windowsill so all's not entirely lost. I live in a village about 10 miles away from civilisation with a tiny and poorly-stocked minimarket that only keeps "mixed herbs". So when we next go into town I need to remember to stock up again.
    The thing is, though, it occurs to me that there's little information for new cooks about what to expect from some herbs. How do you describe to someone who doesn't know, the difference in flavour between Oregano and Tarragon? Which choice of herb could spoil a dish and which brings it to life?
    What range of herbs do you feel you absolutely need, and will almost certainly die without them?
     
  3. Si N. Tiffick

    Si N. Tiffick Occasional commenter

    It will come as no surprise that I always have a big bunch of coriander in the fridge. I use it in curries, chilli, stir fries, asian broths and my Sunday morning achoori. Like CQ, I've never had much joy growing it. On my kitchen windowsill, I have basil, thyme and lemon thyme, parsley and rosemary.
    My (ridiculously well stocked) spice cupboard has a couple of dried herbs, too- sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and some herbes de provence which really need thrown out. Oh, and bay leaves! I go through loads of those. I also keep some teabaggy bouquets garnis for when I haen't the necessary wherewithall to put one together.
    Incidentally- Do curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves count as herbs or spices? I'd count bay as a herb, but the other two as spices- but that doesn't really stand to logic, does it? Either way, I've always got some of them too.
    I could probably live my life without tarragon- I seldom use it, likewise dill and even mint doesn't feature heavily chez Tiffick.
     
  4. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    Oregano and bay leaves arebest dried rather than fresh.
    Dried mixed herbs are essential.
    Fresh herbs must be mint, parsley, basil, sage, thyme and coriander.
     
  5. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    I grow bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano and mint and use the first 3 regularly.
    I love coriander & basil but haven't managed to get those to grow at home so just buy them as I need them.
    Tarragon is essential for chicken pies and salmon fish cakes but it is so intense it has to be matched with the right flavours to enhance them.
    Dill is lovely with fish but I have some freeze dried in the cupboard that makes a good dressing mixed with creme fraiche and lime juice.
     
  6. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    I'd disagree with that. I'd say that they are perfectly acceptable as dried, and indeed about the only herbs that are worth using when dried. They aren't as good as fresh though.
     
  7. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    We have a couple of types of oregano growing in pots in the garden, along with chives and rosemary, so we're never without these. Basil we also grow outside in the summer, occasionally tarragon, but it seems to die off without warning and we don't use it that much, so don't mind paying for the odd packet as we use it. A neighbour has an enormous bay tree to which we are allowed free access, so fresh bay is never a problem.
    The only herbs I always have in my fridge is thyme. My essential, can't manage without herbs are thyme, rosemary and bay, probably parsley as well, but tend to buy it in as needed as it doesn't keep fresh too long. I do the same with basil, coriander and mint, which I use fairly frequently. I use dill, savory, marjoram and tarragon fairly infrequently and so just buy them every now and again, often discovering a forgotten little half-full bag that has gone over about a fortnight later, right at the bottom of the salad drawer of the fridge!
     
  8. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    This is all good stuff, how do you describe the flavours these herbs impart into a dish to a kid that has no idea at all?
     
  9. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    You'd have to introduce them to the flavour. You can use all of the descriptive words you want - pungent, woody, fresh, aniseed, citrus, whatever...all fairly meaningless until you taste them, I'd say.
     
  10. modelmaker

    modelmaker Occasional commenter

    Whilst I understand that, nick, I don't think we've developed our language to the extent we ought to have in describing food yet. Some things we do, like spicy, very spicy, herby or nutty and so on. It needs refining. I'm struggling to find a way of expressing why the best apple sauce I ever made made it so different to anything everyone else might imagine apple sauce to be like. We lack the language cookery recipes require.
     
  11. Bethannie

    Bethannie New commenter

    I love herbs!
    If I have a couple of eggs available, then add the herbs and ther's a fantastic omelette for lunch!
    I usually have parsley available - but don't use it as often as I maybe could.
    Chives are a particular favourite. (And such pretty flowers too!)
    Rocket - really nice in a bitter salad.
    Coriander - Mum and Omi taught me to call this the 'soup' herb.
    Basil - useful for so much...or just torn and scattered over fresh tomatoes.
    Garlic - does this count a a 'herb'?...I don't want to think about a life without garlic!


     
  12. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    I'd disagree with you Nick. In Greece, you can go to FANTASTIC shops where there are bunch after bunch after bunch of brilliant dried herbs. I adore fresh herbs but sometimes dried herbs add something to a dish where fresh herbs would be lost in the taste.
    I have coriander, basil, Greek basil, dill and chives growing on my windowsill.
    In the garden, I have parsley, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, oregano and a bay tree.
    The only herb I cannot stand is mint. It is vile.
     
  13. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Yes, Egyptgirl, you have a point. The bunches of dried herbs can be very good. I saw such shops on holiday in Crete last year. It's the little jars of sawdust sold in supermarkets here that are the generally useless ones. Even as bunches, I still think there are only some that are successful when dried. Generally the woody ones, the exception to that being oregano. Soft leaved ones such as basil, coriander and parsley are still useless dried.
     
  14. Soft leaved ones such as basil, coriander and parsley are still useless dried.
    I agree with that Nick although I dry oregano in the summer for winter use and it is very successful.
    other than that, I can't do without flat leaf parsley, chives, rosemary, basil, bay, thyme, tarragon (which I also dry). I grow all those plus dill and summer savory in the summer. I just can't get coriander to do well, it bolts as soon as I look at it.

     
  15. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    That's one of the reasons I don't bother with coriander. It also doesn't seem to taste as strong as bought stuff and I often use such large quantities when I do use it that I could easily decimate my entire crop with one meal.
     
  16. Couldn't do without cumin, paprika (smoked and normal), cayenne pepper. Also use chilli flakes a lot.
     
  17. Just realised that my above post just refers to spices, not herbs, oops!
     
  18. RJR_38

    RJR_38 New commenter

    I couldn't do without rosemary, thyme and basil (I use bay leaves a lot but could probably live without if I had to). I gorw rosemary and basil on my wondowsill but never seem to have any luck with thyme annoyingly :(
     
  19. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Home grown thyme often seems to lack the intensity of bought thyme. Oddly enough the best thyme seems to be that which has been battered by winds and frazzled by sunshine on some wild rocky hillside somewhere, rather than some that's been cared for and nurtured. Spanish thyme, especially, is wonderful.
     
  20. I will try to explain this as I have tried to explain this to my kids:
    Any meal can be made more interesting with a bay leaf and some parsley.
    Any salad can be made more interesting with some cress or some chives.
    After that, try pasta with basil (ultimate hit with my kids).
    After that, proceed to rosemary, thyme and cloves.
    After that, try chilli.
    After that, try coriander and a garam masala mix.
    After that, mix your own spice.
    Learn to deal with herbs, before you learn to deal with spices.


     

Share This Page