guide to herbs

If there is anything that perfectly compliments the fresh organic veggies in our CSA Shares it is fresh herbs!  Herbs can elevate simple salads, roasted dishes, soups, stews, and gratins into truly memorable dishes.  We grow several herbs on our farm like basil, dill, parsley, and cilantro.  Some of our CSA members enjoy gardening, but love the abundance and variety of our CSA Shares.  Starting a perennial herb garden is a great way to get the best of both worlds!  Many herbs are hardy and will come back each spring.  Often in the summer I clip fresh herbs to add to vinaigrettes and marinades.  In the fall, hang herbs to dry for use during the winter months.  Try planitng herbs in small flower pots if you have space in your kitchen for fresh herbs year round.  If you want to leave the gardening to us, enjoy the herbs in your CSA Share and check your local farmers’ market and natural foods stores for other fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs work well as garnishes for soups, salads, main dishes, and adventurous chefs even use them in baked goods.  Herbs pair well with pasta, grains, roasted vegetables, and egg dishes.  Add whole stalks of herbs to flavor soups and stews and remove when finished cooking.  Many herbs like parsley, mint, basil, and cilantro make delicious pestos and sauces.  Use fresh, frozen, or dried herbs in teas, salad dressings, summer beverages, and marinades.


Storing

Store unwashed bunches of fresh herbs stem side down in small jars filled about halfway with water.  Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, change water as necessary.  Herbs can also be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but will last longer in water.

Fresh basil should be stored at room temperature in a jar with the stems in water.  Basil is a warm-weather crop and turns black very quickly if it gets too cold.  All other herbs can be stored in the refrigerator.


Drying

Most herbs can be dried, when dry the leaves will crumble easily and can be stored in glass jars for up to a year.  You can also combine herbs to make your own blends like; Italian Seasoning and Herbs de Provence.  Herbs can be dried in the oven on low heat or hung up in bunches.  To dry herbs in the oven, set oven to lowest setting.  Spread herbs on a baking sheet, and cook two to four hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.  Herbs are ready when leaves crumble when pinched.  To air-dry herbs hang in bunches with leaves facing down in a warm ventilated place.  Herbs are ready when leaves crumble when pinched.  Store dried herbs in glass jars – crumble before storing or store whole leaves and crumble just before use.


Freezing

Freezing herbs is a great way to preserve their aroma and flavor.  There are a couple different options for freezing herbs, so try a few and see what you prefer.  Check out our post on Freezing Fresh Herbs to learn more!


Basil

We grow Genovese basil and Thai basil on our farm.  Thai basil is a little more peppery and has a flavor similar to mint.  Common in Italian cooking, Genovese basil is delicious added to marinara and other sauces at the end of cooking, the main ingredient in pesto, or mixed into grain salads.  A classic Italian dish is Caprese Salad, best with thick slices of our heirloom tomatoes topped with a thick slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf, and a drizzle of olive oil.  A classic summer dish!  Both varieties are best raw or cooked only briefly.  Thai basil can be used to top stir-fries, added to fresh spring rolls, and Asian salads and dressings.  The leaves and flowers are edible.  Remove leaves from stems and use whole or tear for best results.  Basil can be chopped or minced, but the edges of the leaves may turn black.  Basil pairs well with beets, Brussels Sprouts, carrots, celeriac, celery, escarole, radicchio, cucumber, green beans, eggplant, fennel, kohlrabi, peppers, radishes, cabbage, spinach, summer squash, tomatoes, and turnips.

10 Ways to Use the Basil in Your CSA


Chives & Scallions

Chives are very easy to grow in home gardens and as potted plants.  Chives are mostly grown for their scapes, but the flowers are edible and can be used as a lovely garnish.  Clip fresh chives to add to dressings, mix into soft cheese and butter spreads, and mix into grain salads.  Chives also pair well with eggs, and in pasta dishes.  Best raw or added to a dish at the end of cooking.  Chives pair well with parsnips, green beans, radishes, spinach, and summer squash.

13 Ideas for Scallions


Cilantro

We grow lots of cilantro on our farm, and it appears in the share boxes until the heat of the summer is too much for it to handle!  Cilantro is best used in raw or at the last minute of cooking.  Essential for salsa, chutneys, and Thai and Chinese salads.  The leaves and stems are both edible, so feel free to just mince them up together instead of removing the leaves.  Add chopped cilantro to tacos and quesadillas, mix into salads, and guacamole.  Cilantro also makes a great base for pestos.  Cilantro loses it’s flavor when cooked and dried so enjoy fresh for best flavor.  Cilantro pairs well with tomatoes, garlic, and onions.

One Dozen Great Ideas for Cilantro


Dill

Dill comes on stalks with feathery leaves.  Remove leaves from stems, and use dill fresh and raw.  Dried dill will also work well.  Dill is used in pickles, and pairs well with creamy sauces like sour cream and yogurt.  Dill also pairs well with mustard sauces and dressings, and can be tossed into green or grain salads.  Dill compliments many vegetables including green beans, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Using the Dill in Your CSA Share


Fennel

Fennel can be used as a vegetable and herb.  The feathery leaves have a licorice flavor that pairs well with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, beets, escarole, and radicchio.  Add to salads, use as a base for pesto, add to soups and stews  or homemade stocks.  Fennel pairs very well with fish and egg dishes.


Mint

Mint is a versatile herb that works in savory and sweet preparations.  Mint is easy to grow – it can be invasive in home gardens so plant it in an area that you won’t mind if it spreads or keep it confined to a pot.  Mint is best fresh, but dried mint will also work.  Chop or crush fresh leaves and add to fruit salads, teas, lemonades, jellies and jams, and pestos.  Mint jelly or sauce is often served with fresh lamb.  Mint is an essential ingredient to tabouli salad, and can be added to fresh spring rolls.  Fresh mint is also the base for the popular rum drink, mojito.  Try our cucumber version!  Mint pairs well with broccoli, cucumber, cabbage, and radishes.


Oregano

Oregano is an easy to grow perennial herb common in Italian and Mexican cooking.  Can be used fresh or dried, and may have a stronger flavor when dried.  Oregano is common in pizza sauce, and Mexican chilies.  Oregano can be cooked or used as a garnish, add to roasted or grilled vegetables, meats, and fish or mix into dressings.  A good compliment to cheese, pizza, bean dishes, and vinaigrettes.  Pairs well with tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, and summer squash.


Parsley

Parsley is a versatile and common culinary herb best used raw.  Parsley grows well on our farm and is prevalent in the CSA Share boxes in the sumer and fall.  We grow both flat leaf, and curly leaf parsley.  Flat leaf parsley looks similar to cilantro and has a slightly stronger flavor.  Curly leaf parsley is commonly used as garnish.  Parsley can be used as a base for salads like tabouleh, as a garnish for salads, potato dishes, added to rice dishes, meats and fish.  Parsley works well in homemade stocks, soups, and stews.  Add whole and remove at the end of cooking.  Parsley is also used a base for pesto and Italian salsa verde.  Pairs well with Brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, escarole, radicchio, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, kohlrabi, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, radishes, winter squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, and turnips.


Rosemary

Rosemary is a hardy herb that grows fairly well in most home gardens and flower pots.  Rosemary can be used fresh or dried with good results.  Rosemary does not lose it’s flavor when cooked, so it can be added early in cooking and works well with dishes that are roasted, fried, and grilled.  Rosemary pairs well with bean, egg dishes, pastas, and breads.  Remove leaves and mince, or add sprigs of rosemary to soups and stews and remove before serving.  Use rosemary stems as skewers for grilling.  A good compliment to peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and turnips.


Sage

Sage is another hardy herb that is easy to grow! The soft leaves of sage are best tasting fresh, but dried also works well. Use fresh leaves whole or chopped in pastas, with beans, breads, and stuffing. This savory herb also pairs well with chicken and turkey, and is often used in sausage. Fry whole leaves in oil for a crispy topping to cheesy dishes or soups. Add to gratins and egg dishes. Pairs well with leeks, potatoes, and winter squash.


Tarragon

Tarragon has long thin leaves that are best used fresh. An easy perennial to grow in the home garden. Tarragon holds up well to cooking and can be used fresh in smaller amounts. Tarragon is delicious in oil and vinegar dressings, mustards, and creamy sauces like tartar sauce. It is also common in chicken, fish, and egg dishes in French cooking. Pairs well with beets and cucumber.


Thyme

Thyme is an extremely versatile herb that works both fresh and dried, and stands up well to cooking. Easy to grow in home gardens and very hardy. Whole sprigs of thyme can be added to dishes, the leaves will fall off during cooking and you can remove the stem. To use fresh leaves, run your thumb down the stem to strip off the leaves. Mince the leaves to add to dressings, sauces, and egg dishes or use whole in sautés. Pairs well with cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, escarole, radicchio, eggplant, kale, leeks, onion, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, spinach, and winter squash.


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