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Basics of learning to cook with fresh herbs

Basics of Learning to Cook with Fresh Herbs

Learning to use fresh herbs is a great way to spice up your cooking, making it tastier and better than ever before.  There are infinite ways to use fresh herbs in your cooking. This means that you get to use your imagination to create new ways of using the herbs you choose every day!  A benefit of using fresh herbs is that you will not need to use as much salt or fatty ingredients to add flavor and substance to your cooking.  This brings obvious health benefits as well as the fact that herbs are loaded with antioxidants which protect against cancer and heart disease.
Using recipes is a great way of introducing yourself to using fresh herbs in your cooking.  The next level of learning how to use herbs comes with fully understanding the different flavors of the herbs you are using.  To achieve this, I suggest first tasting each herb by itself, then add it to something bland yet familiar, such as rice or potatoes.  Finally, (and here’s where your creativity comes in) experiment by adding the herb whenever you think it will work.  
If you’re using herbs from your own garden, it is important for you to know that the best herbs come from plants that are in the leaf making stage, not in the flowering (reproductive) stage.  During the flowering stage, leaves become bitter, grassy, woody, or yellowed because more of the plant’s energy is going toward flowering (reproduction).  You can delay your plant flowering by harvesting often.
When starting to grow herbs at home, it’s a good idea to start small so as not to become overwhelmed.  I recommend starting with six basic herbs, including:  Chives, Thyme, Tarragon, Oregano, Rosemary, and Basil.  A few others to add when you’re comfortable with the above might be:  Sage, Marjoram, and Dill.  Once you’re comfortable with all of these, you may wish to experiment with many others.  There are infinite possibilities.
When cooking with your herbs, it is a general guideline to use three times as much fresh as you would of a dried herb.  The best time to pick herbs from your garden is in the morning, after the dew has dried and before the sun gets hot.  This will provide you with the optimum flavor and best storage time line.
When storing your herbs in the refrigerator, I recommend putting them in a perforated plastic bag which you can easily make yourself by poking holes in a plastic bag.  They will keep this way for a few days.  If the herbs you’re storing have long stems, you can cut them at an angle, like flowers, and put them in water, covered loosely with a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Change the water daily and they can last up to a week.  Be aware that longer herb storage times may result in diminished flavor.
A few ideas to get you started cooking with herbs include using Basil, Garlic, Oregano, and Rosemary for meat, stew, pasta, or casseroles.  To enhance sweetness, use Cinnamon, Ginger, and Nutmeg.  To heat up a dish, add black, red, or white Pepper.  Be sure to add fresh herbs at the end of cooking so that flavor lasts.  Keep in mind that you can use herb flowers for a beautiful garnish.
Happy Cooking!

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