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Using Fresh Herbs

Whether you plant them or pick them up at the Farmers Market or grocery store, adding fresh herbs can take an ordinary dish to extraordinary!

Nashville, Ark. –

Whether you plant them or pick them up at the Farmers Market or grocery store, adding fresh herbs can take an ordinary dish to extraordinary! There is no comparison to the flavor fresh herbs add to a dish. And fresh herbs can help you cut back on salt, fat and sugar in the diet! Another benefit is researchers are finding many herbs have antioxidants that may help protect against such diseases as cancer and heart disease.

            When using herbs to flavor food, you will want to wait until just a minute or two before the dish is finished cooking to add them. This is especially true for delicate herbs such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, and mint. Less delicate herbs, rosemary, oregano, and thyme, can be added the last 20 minutes of cooking. Experiment with several different herbs on foods to see which ones you enjoy with certain foods.

            Most herbs are easy to grow. You can plant them in a garden spot or in a container. Be sure to allow enough room for the herb to grow properly. Mint is a great herb to grow, but it can be very invasive. You will probably want to plant it in a container; otherwise it may take over your garden!

            Great herbs to grow in our area include basil, chives, dill, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley and sage. Be sure to label each herb so you will know which one you are using. Many herbs are hard to distinguish each other in the way they look. For example, cilantro and Italian parsley look very similar; however, there is a huge difference in taste! When purchasing them at the grocery store, be sure to rub them gently and then smell your fingers. Cilantro has a very distinctive aroma.

            The best time to pick herbs is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot. This helps ensure the best flavor. If you purchase fresh herbs at the grocery store, buy them close to the time you plan to use them. The longer they are stored the less flavorful they become.

            You can store fresh herbs in an open or perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for a few days.

            Fresh herbs add color and flavor to almost any dish! If you would like a handout on herbs stating which herbs work best with certain foods, contact the office. I’ll be glad to send you a couple of handouts!

            Information for this article was adapted from Fresh Herbs: a Picture of Healthy Eating by Alice Henneman, MS, RD University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Joanne Kinsey, MS Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

            For more information or to receive a copy of the handout, call the Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            As summer gardens start to produce, use this recipe as a great side dish to almost any meal. It is especially great with grilled meats.

Vegetable Medley

1 Tablespoon low-fat margarine

2 medium yellow squash, sliced

1 medium zucchini, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced

½ cup frozen corn

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon basil

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

            In a large pan over medium heat, melt margarine. Add squash, zucchini and onion. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, corn, garlic and seasonings and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

            Yields: 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving: Calories-92, Carbohydrate: 15 g, Protein-4 g, Fat-1 g, Sodium-15 mg

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu

 

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