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Power of Fresh Herbs

Power of Fresh Herbs

Using Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs have a captivating aroma and flavor that dried herbs just cannot match. Try any of the following popular varieties and we guarantee you will taste the difference.

To make using fresh herbs easier, there are also some suggestions for fantastic food ideas that really showcase their strengths. Plus, the tips and suggestions for preparation and storage will help you easily preserve that first-day freshness well into the future.

How to Use
Each herb has a distinctive flavor that makes it an ideal partner for certain foods. Following are some favorite serving suggestions.

Mint

Mint Leaves A blast of refreshing minty flavor complements both sweet and savory dishes.

  • Garnish fruit salad or Crystal Light low calorie drink mix with a fresh mint sprig
  • Stir chopped mint into prepared Minute Rice
  • Add chopped mint to Jell-O pudding or stir into thawed whipped topping and spoon over fresh berries.

Oregano

Oregano The dainty leaves of oregano add a rich, spicy kick to tomato sauces and Greek dishes.

Oregano contains supreme antioxidant abilities.

How extreme? Oregano has up to 20 times the antioxidant activity of other herbs, and ounce-for-ounce beats out apples and oranges.

Oregano is a potent anti-inflammatory agent too.

German and Swiss researchers discovered this important fact when they gave oregano's active ingredient to mice with swollen paws. The swelling subsided in up to 70 percent of the mice.

  • Stir oregano into tomato sauce or sprinkle on pizza.
  • Toss hot vegetables with Italian dressing then stir in oregano.
  • Add chopped oregano to batters and crumb mixtures such as stuffing mix before frying or baking.

Rosemary

Rosemary The woodsy flavor and aroma of these silver-green leaves goes well with meat and potatoes. Rosemary is a robust herb that adds oomph to dishes, but can it crack down on cancer? Scientists think so, at least a concentrated extract of the herb might. Some researchers believe oregano can block dangerous carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA) from forming during cooking.

A Kansas State University food scientist, motivated by a study showing that marinades made with rosemary, thyme and other spices could cut HCA in grilled steak by 87 percent, tried rosemary extract alone. Bingo. The rosemary wiped out any trace of HCA in the cooked beef patties, and without a strong rosemary taste. Researchers credit phenols with protective antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Stir into soups, sauces and marinades.
  • Add to ground meat along with Cheddar cheese before shaping into burgers or meatloaf.
  • Add 1-tablespoon to potatoes coated with dressing for flavorful roasting.

Basil

Basil These shiny green leaves of basil add a sweet, peppery flavor to Italian dishes from pasta to pesto.

Basil is a member of the Mint family, and like most other mints, is mainly used in medicine for its digestive and anti-gas properties.

As a spice, basil can be used liberally in foods. Basil is so versatile an herb it can be used in an abundant variety of foods.

  • Add to creamy dips, eggs and cheese dishes or sprinkle on salads for fresh flavor.
  • Stir chopped basil and Parmesan cheese into melted butter and toss with popped popcorn.

Parsley

Parsley This versatile herb adds a fresh taste to any dish and provides a colorful garnish.

  • Blend 1 /4 cup chopped fresh parsley with 1/ 2 cup softened butter and refrigerate several hours. Melt over cooked vegetables or spread over warm breads and rolls.
  • Decorate meat platters and dips with a sprig of parsley for a festive look or sprinkle chopped parsley around the rim of a dinner plate.

Selection and Storage

Select brightly colored herbs with fresh, fragrant leaves and firm stems.

To keep herbs fresh, wash and refrigerate in a re-sealable plastic bag with two paper towels for up to a week. You can also stand a bouquet of herbs in a glass of water and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to a week, changing water once or twice.

Freeze fresh herbs to enjoy them all year long. Wash, dry and strip leaves from stems. Fill ice cube trays halfway with leaves. Add enough water to cover; freeze. Pop out frozen cubes and store in freezer bags. Freeze up to six months.

Preparation of Herbs

  • Wash herbs just before using and blot dry with paper towels.
  • To remove tough rosemary stems, hold the top of the stem in one hand and strip off leaves with the fingertips of the other hand.
  • To thinly slice fresh basil or mint, stack several leaves. Roll stack lengthwise into a cylinder and cut crosswise to form thin strips.
  • Add fresh herbs near the end of cooking or sprinkle over food just before serving to preserve flavor. Keep in mind that 1-tablespoon fresh herb equals 1-teaspoon dried.

Source: USDA

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