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Cooking with Fresh Herbs


Having spent the last two Saturdays in our farm stand and observing the rate of sale of our beautiful herb bunches (few and far between) I am beginning to realize that people either a) don’t like herbs or b) don’t know what to do with fresh herbs and therefore don’t buy them. The first possibility makes me feel like weeping, so for my own peace of mind I’m going to assume that people are intimidated by fresh herbs and would be oh-so grateful if someone would open their eyes to the culinary magic that they can provide. As far as I’m concerned, having fresh herbs on hand in the kitchen is essential, they are what gives both body and finish to any dish. Now, considering that you all subscribe to a csa box, we already know that you are a pretty enlightened crew. That said, you all will be receiving herbs consistently in your boxes for the next little spell, so I thought I would give you a little ‘which herbs are good for what’ guide. My list is by no means comprehensive, and not of all of these herbs will show up in your boxes, but several will and those that don’t will certainly be available at the Saturday farm stand.

Basil: The most popular of all fresh herbs, and not without reason. The original pesto herb, tomato’s best friend, delicious in salads or sandwiches, and great for use in aioli, marinara and the like.

Cilantro: One of the most versatile herbs in my opinion, it lends itself to dishes influenced both by Mexican and Asian cuisines. Cilantro is great chopped fine in salads and slaws; and I add it fresh to most lentil and bean dishes. Cilantro pesto is a real joy…try taking it in an alternative direction by using cashews as your nut, and adding a little toasted sesame or chili oil on top of your base oil.

Mint: Another good one to chop fresh into savory salads or slaws, tasty chopped very fine in fruit salads and great for making sun tea.

Parsley: Oh, parsley. So under appreciated. It has gained a bad reputation from hanging out too much on the side of plates at greasy spoons. Whether it be flat leaf or curly, I miss it when it’s not around. I LOVE to put fresh parsley in slaws and salads and I LOVE to put fresh parsley on all pizzas and I LOVE to put parsley on pretty much anything that has cheese and/or mushrooms in it. I also put it in soups and munch on it while harvesting. It’s my go-to herb.

Oregano: A staple for marinades, soups, roasted veggies or meat. When I make a big pot o’ beans, a couple of long sprigs of oregano always go in.

Rosemary: Another one that makes it into the pot o’ beans. A favorite for roast chicken or potatoes and, like its friend sage, great in baked goods like biscuits.

Sage: Sage has a strong flavor, so you don’t need much. Its great with roasted veggies or meat or as an addition to soups. When I sauté mushrooms for burgers (weather they be beef or beet) I like to start out sautéing a little sage in butter, and then adding the sliced mushrooms. Sage is also great in sweet baked things like scones and shortbread cookies.

Summer Savory: Another good one for meat or veggie marinades and a close friend of bean salads.

Thyme: Along with oregano, the first to the scene for soups, and roasted meat or veggies. Just remember: Thyme is on your side.