A couple years ago, I decided to plant various herbs and experiment with them in my cooking. Living in an apartment, space was limited and they were perfect for container gardening on our balcony. While I experimented cooking with various herbs, my toddler son had fun watering and helping care for them. It was a good lesson in “garden to table.”
This past week, Kelcey Holm, Emmons County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, and I presented on the topic of herbs to the Prairie Planters Garden Club in Linton. I thought I would share some similar information with readers of my column.
There are many uses for herbs from cooking to medicinal purposes, pest control to decoration and garnishment.
The top 10 herbs used for culinary consideration are anise hyssop; basil; chamomile; chives; coriander, cilantro and Chinese parsley; dill; garlic; lavender; oregano, and tarragon.
Do you have a favorite herb you use in various recipes? I prefer cooking basil and garlic. However, dill is also necessary down here in German-Russian Country.
When harvesting any herb, it’s important to do it in the morning after the dew is off before the heat of the day.
While herbs can add a great deal of flavor to a dish, they offer little nutritional value. Herbs can be a great alternative to salt and fats in recipes making them more heart healthy.
Herbs can be used in recipes either fresh or dried. The general rule of thumb when cooking with herbs is two teaspoons fresh herbs, about ¾ teaspoon dried herbs or ¼ teaspoon powdered herbs. If you are going to use herbs in hot foods add them toward the end of cooking. However, add them several hours ahead of time if using in cold dishes.
Herbs can be preserved various ways including air drying, oven/dehydrator drying, microwave drying or freezing. It’s always important to wash the herbs and pat dry before preparing to preserve them. It’s important to store herbs in airtight containers such as jars or sealed bags and for best flavor, used within a year.
For more information about harvesting herbs for healthy eating, stop by the office for NDSU Extension Publication H1267.
Herbed Cream Cheese
1 lb. low-fat cream cheese
1/2 lb. butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh
1/8 c tsp. chopped fresh
Place cream cheese and butter in food processor or mixer. Add garlic and herbs and blend. Serve with crackers.
(Sources: Julie Garden- Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences and Ronald C. Smith, Ph.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service horticulture specialist.)
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