A Quick Guide to Culinary Herbs and Their Uses
The most common use for most herbs found in a home garden is the culinary use. Many gardeners specialize in creating an edible herb garden only, and nothing else. Most of the herbs found in an edible herb garden will have other purposes, though, and so creating an herb garden primarily for flavoring dishes doesn't mean you won't get to enjoy the other benefits of herbs. All the popular herbs given as a list earlier in the chapter are edible herbs, we will discuss dill, tarragon, and three others now.
This herb is great for flavoring fish dishes and salads. In particular, baked white fish sprinkled with dill makes a wonderful dish. You can also add dill to your classic tuna melt recipe to add a bit of extra flavor. You can also use it to garnish scrambled eggs or your omelette. Use dill sparingly because it can have a rather overpowering flavor. Experiment with how much dill to use on your various dishes, and see how well you like it.
Like dill, this herb has a rather strong flavor and should be used in small amounts. It's bitter with a slight licorice flavor, which makes it great to use on meats or seafood with a natural sweetness. Try using tarragon on chicken or lobster and taste the amazing flavors! You can also pair it with some strong cheese flavors in order to counter the harshness of the cheese.
This herb has long green stalks with a gentle onion taste. It's usually used to top off baked potatoes or other dishes that involve sour cream. Get creative with your chives, though and use them with your eggs, mashed potatoes, or casseroles. The onion flavor can be really refreshing to a dish that uses good amounts of cheese or other dairy products.
Similar to dill and tarragon, hyssop has a strong flavor that can overpower many dishes. It's bitter with a hint of mint which makes it a great flavoring to combine with sweet vegetables like potatoes, carrots and squash. Hyssop leaves have a stronger flavor than it's flowers, so use the flowers while you're just beginning to experiment. Ingesting this herb helps in the digestion of fats and oils, so you can serve it with fatty meats to balance out your meal a little.
A beautiful addition to your garden, marjoram is such a pretty herb that many gardeners grow them just for the sake of their prettiness. They can be used for cooking however, and in ways similar to oregano. You can flavor your meats, salads or pastas with marjoram for a new and unique taste. It can be used in the same quantities as oregano, so try using it as a substitute from time to time and notice a pleasant difference in your meals!
If you are unsure about how to use any of your other herbs for cooking, make herb butter! Use a single herb or a combination of herbs! Choose the flavors you enjoy, and try mixing strong herbs with two light tasting herbs in order to balance out the flavors. Using two strong herbs can cause a clash in your butter.
To make herb butter, allow a stick of butter to soften at room temperature, just enough so that you can sort of mash it and move it around. If you see it becoming liquid, you have softened it too much. While you're waiting for your butter to soften, take two tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs or a single herb. You will need two tablespoons for one stick of butter. In a mixing bowl, mix the herbs, softened butter, and the juice of one lemon (optional) by hand or with an electric mixer till the mixture is even.
Once the mixture is even, place the butter back in the refrigerator so that it hardens again. You can use this herb butter the same you would regular butter, on bread, for marinades, or for cooking. It is not really recommended for baking, unless you truly like the herb flavor. Try any of the herbs listed on the popular herbs list, and experiment with many different butter flavors! When it comes to culinary herbs, the possibilities are endless!