Like virtually all leafy green plants, herbs are quite nutritious. But ounce for ounce, fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary, parsley, and basil are among the most nutritious greens you can find.
Traditional cures from plants and herbs have been used by herbalists and apothecaries throughout the centuries. They do more than simply adding flavor and color to your favorite dishes, their healing and restorative powers are pretty impressive too. Fresh herbs are wonderful for many things, yet it’s easy to find yourself with a surplus. Don’t let those delicacy mold in the fridge! We have some great suggestions for using every last leaf!
Cook a Simple Syrup:
- Add a big handful of fresh herbs to a basic mixture of equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, stir, and then remove from the heat. Once completely cooled, strain out the herbs (discard), and use the simple syrup to sweeten iced coffee and tea, cocktails, and anything else your heart desires. Mint works well in a simple syrup, and we especially like rosemary syrup in our lattes—it’s an unexpected savory-sweet twist.
Put ‘Em in a Salad Dressing
- Fresh herbs are a perfect match for small-batch salad dressings and vinaigrettes. They round out the fatty and sharp flavors from the oil and vinegar (or citrus juice) with a vegetal note. A vinaigrette with fresh herbs will last for a week in the fridge before the herbs start to turn. Our picks for salad dressings are the pungent, assertive herbs, like chives. Anything goes, but be sure to chop them finely, so they mix into the dressing well.
Infuse Some Oil
- Never pay top dollar for a fancy flavored oil again. Infusing your own oil is as easy as blitzing fresh herbs with a neutral oil (don’t use potent EVOO; you don’t want the flavors of the oil to compete with the herbs), heating it slowly, then straining it through a sieve. It’ll keep in the fridge, and is perfect for salad dressings, drizzling over grilled meat and seafood, and as a dip for good bread.
Cook Up a Sauce
- Melted butter poured all over seared scallops seems excessive. But brown that butter and toss in a few handfuls of fragrant herbs, like tarragon or sage, and we call that a sauce. Finish with a squeeze of lemon, some zest, or drizzle of vinegar to brighten the flavors. What else is good with an herby brown butter sauce? Uh, just about…everything.
Rub Down a Chicken
- Combine herbs with garlic, salt, and sugar for a homemade brine, use them to flavor a slow-roasted chicken, or take them to the grill for intensely flavored and smoky wings.
Give ‘Em a Whirl in the Food Processor
- We don’t have to tell you twice that extra basil makes a fine pesto. But guess what? So does parsley. And cilantro. And mint. Also tasty: a chunky, puréed salsa verde chock-full of herbs. Use sturdier greens, like spinach or arugula, to bulk up the sauces, and skip the most potent herbs (sorry sage, you are not invited to this party).
Make a Compound Butter
- Finely chopped herbs easily mix into room-temperature butter, which can then be spread on bread, added to a fat steak as it rests, used to gussy up grilled clams, or used for cooking. Bonus: It freezes!
- Want to DIY your dried herbs? It’s easy: Just group them in small bunches, then tie them with twine or a rubber band and hang them upside down in a cool room with good circulation. Although they may look sweet in the kitchen, most kitchens are too warm to facilitate proper drying. Don’t tie the knot on your twine or string too tight—you will most likely need to tighten it as the herbs dry and shrink. Once fully dry (it will take a few days), store them whole in air-tight bags or crumble them and store in jars as ground herbs.