Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Cooking with fresh herbs, gives your food an extraordinary taste and flavor. In fact no kitchen is complete without a varied selection of fresh and dried herbs.

If you use fresh or even dried herbs in your cooking, the food will always be flavorsome and satisfying. Fresh herbs are always better than dried herbs but if the fresh ones are difficult to get hold of, then dried herbs will solve the purpose. If a recipe asks for 1 Tbsp of fresh herb, then that can be substituted by 1 Tsp of dried herb.

What are herbs?

Herbs are plants that are used for various purposes. Culinary herbs as the name suggests, are used to enhance the taste and flavor of food. There are herbs that are used for their medical benefits. Ayurvedic medicines contain a lot of herbs and which is the reason they can be safely used, without any side effects. Many herbs are used for spiritual purpose in prayers and offerings in many religions, all over the world.

Most herbs have some medicinal properties, therefore using herbs in cooking not only benefits the flavor of food but also your health .

Here is a list of most commonly used herbs for cooking.



In Italy sweet basil, is a symbol of love. In India, a type of basil, known as 'tulsi' is a plant which not only has medicinal properties but considered holy and is worshiped. No other herb stands out quite like basil for its aroma. Basil is grown widely in many Northern Mediterranean countries.

Ancient Greeks called it the 'Herb of Kings'. Basil is part of the mint family. It has a pungent, clove-like aroma and is sometimes called the"tomato herb" because of its usage in most tomato recipes. Cooking with fresh herb (basil) can be done in preparing stuffing, beef stew, pork, shrimp, green vegetable salads, French dressing, soups, pastas, barbecue sauce etc. Basil blends well with other herbs. Use sparingly when preparing hot meals as the flavor can get too strong. To make Italian Pesto puree basil with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, and pine nuts.

Bay Leaf

fresh bay leaf

Also known as the laurel leaf, the bay leaf is native to the Mediterranean area. The ancient Greeks gave bay or laurel wreaths to winners of Olympic Games, poets and heroes.

The bay leaf is an aromatic dried green leaf of an evergreen tree. It has a distinct, strong, pungent flavor. The strength of its flavor increases with cooking time. That is why it isusually removed when the cooking is complete. Even if you don't remove it after cooking, it should not be eaten but left separately to be binned later.

The bay leaf lends delicious piquancy when used and is added to a variety of Indian curries. Cooking with fresh herb (bay leaf) can also be done by using it in soups and soup stocks, pickles, pot roasts and a variety of stews/meats.

Use 1 or 2 leaves in the beginning of cooking. Include in a bouquet garni, along with parsley and thyme, for flavoring stocks and poaching liquids. Both fresh and dry leaves can be used. Do not use too many as the flavor might become overpowering.



Native to the Mediterranean areas and the Middle East, celery was used as a flavoring by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It has large, fleshy, succulent and upright leafstalks.

Celery is usually eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. Cooking with fresh herb (celery) can add a delicate flavor to a variety of stocks, soups and casseroles.

It can also be served as an appetizer with spreads or dips.The tiny celery fruit or seed resembles the plant itself and is used as a seasoning particularly in soups and pickles. It can be ground and mixed with salt to make celery salt. Although too much of usage is not possible as the seed is slightly bitter.



Native to the Northern hemisphere, the ancient Roman cookbook of Apicius refers tocooking with chives. This perennial member of the onion family has a grass like appearanceand a mild onion flavor. Chopped or snipped, chives flavor most foods especiallyegg and potato dishes. Their attractive mauve flowers look elegant when used as a garnish.

Garlic or Chinese chives have larger flat leaves and a distinct garlic flavor. They are used in more robust salads and Chinese meals. For cooking with fresh herb chives, sprinkle florets or cut leaves on salads, in sandwiches and soups. Chop them and add to egg and cheese dishes, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, hamburgers, sandwich spreads and sauces. Smear into softened butter for corn on the cob.


fresh coriander

Often called 'Chinese parsley' or 'cilantro', fresh coriander is similar in appearance to flat-leaf parsleybut has a characteristic sweet, scented aroma. Coriander is a must in Indian cooking.

It is used both as an ingredient and garnish for curries, salads, raitas and chutneys. Curries are often finished by garnishing with freshly chopped coriander leaves. Fresh coriander can be used in large quantities to enhance the flavor of any dish.

Curry Leaves

curry leaves

The curry leaves or known as 'curry patta', is popular in Southern and Western India. It is a fragrant herb belonging to the same botanical family as Neem, the leaves of which have anti-bacterial properties and are used as a natural pesticide.

Curry leaves can be used either in the initial stages of cooking or at the simmering stage. It retains it's maximum flavor when added at the final stage of a curry, but it needs tocook for at least 5 minutes. When dried, curry leaves have very little flavor.

Curry leaves are used in dals, vegetables, meat curries and in most South Indian dishes. A few curry leaves can be added at the time of tempering and 2-3 at a later stage. They have a strong flavor and taste so not necessary to eat them, they can be picked and kept in the side of the plate and later binned.



One of the oldest herbs, dill is a native of southern Europe and western Asia. Dill is a member of the parsley family and comes in two forms, seed and weed.

Dill seeds are fat, oval and light brown. Dill weeds are bright green feathery leaves that taste sweetly of anise but still have a sharp and slightly bitter taste. The flavor of dill weed is delicate and subtler than that of dill seed. Dill seed, on the other hand, has a characteristic pungent aroma and flavor.

Dill seeds and weeds are used in salads, green beans, egg dishes, tomato juice, soups, sauces, cottage and cream cheese and in preparing fish, shellfish and chicken. Dill weeds make a particularly attractive garnish. Dill is most closely associated with Scandinavian and Eastern European cooking. Add to cold potato salads, cucumbers, and deviled eggs as well as hot potato soups, steamed beets or beet soups, omelets and dishes enriched with sour cream. Use in baked goods, including breads and biscuits.

In India, dill is widely used in the state of Maharashtra and Southern India. It is mainly cooked will moong dal as a bhaji or subzi. Or cooked with toor dal as a sambar. Dill chutney can be very tasty but has a strong flavor.


fenugreek leaves

Fenugreek is considered to be a native of Eastern Europe and Ethiopia. It also grows wildly in North-western India. The fenugreek, also know as methi plant, grows about 3o-6o cms high. It is a strongly scented, robust, annual herb. The slight bitterness of fenugreek leaves gives it its unique flavor.

They are commonly used in curries, pulaos and parathas. The Indian name for dried fenugreek leaves is 'kasoori methi'. The dried version is stronger in flavour and should be used sparingly.

Since ancient times, fenugreek has been used as food and medicine. Its leaves are beneficial in the treatment of indigestion, diabetes, flatulence etc. Methi seeds are beneficial for diabetics, they are used for tempering as well.

Lemon Grass

lemon grass

This fragrant herb is a versatile one. It is widely used as a flavoring ingredient is Southeast Asian dishes. There are more than 50 species in this genus of scented grasses. Plants can be grown outdoors in warmer areas and will happily survive the warmer months outside in cool areas, as long as they are brought indoors when the temperature falls below 45 degrees. The leaves, stem and oil are the valuable parts of the plant.

To use take the lower 6" from the root and bash it with a rolling pin or clever, then use as per the recipe. The leaves can be chopped and used to make lemon tea and other Asian dishes.



Native to the Mediterranean countries, marjoram is also grown in the cooler parts of India. The plant grows over one foot tall and its leaves are light green oval shape. Marjoram has a fragrant odor and a spicy taste which is also slightly sharp and bitterish. It is used in small quantities to flavor a number of dishes. Whole leaves can be chopped and added to a cooked dish.

It can be used to flavor many soups. Marjoram is a delightful seasoning for beef and pork roasts. It is also used to flavor fish (in fish sauce) or in poultry stuffing.

Marjoram leaves are used by the industrial manufacturers for flavoring liver, polish sausages and cheese, in soups, stews, dressings, salads, egg and vegetable dishes, meat sausages etc. It can be used fresh, as well as dried.


mint leaves

Native of temperate Europe, several varieties of mint are also widely cultivated in theHimalayan plains and the Kashmir valley. It is said that mint is the most popular flavoring in the world. Mint is a popular herb used extensively in Indian cooking as well.

It is an erect perennial plant with oval leaves that are delicate, thin, dark green and fragrant.

Mint is a must in the preparation of dishes like dhansak, biryani and many meat curries etc. It is always added at the end stage of the cooking process in order to retain its aroma and flavor.

Mint should not be fried with any masala as it turns black quickly and gives the dish a dark colour. Mint chutney is served on the side of any meal in most of the homes in India.

Cooking with fresh herb (mint) can be done in almost every dish. Fresh green mint leaves can be added to a salad or used for decorating a dessert. Fresh or dry mint can be used to flavor raita or yogurt. Use it in fruit salads. Mint has several medical properties. It is used in the treatment of many digestive, respiratory, oral and skin disorders. Mint tea is good to bring relief in severe cough and cold.


oregano fresh

Native to the Mediterranean region, oregano has been used since the early days of ancient Rome. Also called wild marjoram, it is available in both leaf and ground form. Its flavor is strong and aromatic, with a pleasant bitter undertone. The increased popularity of pizza all over the world has stimulated the wide use of oregano.

Cooking with fresh herb (oregano) can be done with tomatoes and in tomato dishes. Use it to season pasta, sauces, tomato juice, pizza, barbecue sauce and vegetable soup. Oregano is also excellent in egg and cheese dishes, seafood, salads, stuffing for meat and poultry and on chicken and fish.


parsley fresh

Native to the rocky shores of the Mediterranean, plain leaf parsley is also grown in the cooler parts of India. An excellent source of Vitamin C and several minerals, parsley has a pleasant mild fragrance and a refreshing taste. Its long slender stalks and pretty leaves also make an elegant garnish.

Cooking with fresh herb (parsley) enhances most savory dishes of meat, poultry, fish, eggs and vegetables, bringing out the flavor of other herbs and seasonings. Chop it fine or use it to garnish and flavor soups, green salads, herb sauces and butters, tomato and meat sauces, stuffing for meat and poultry.


rosemary fresh

Rosemary is commonly grown in Yugoslavia, France and Portugal. Records suggest that rosemary was extensively used way back in 5oo B.C. Prominent in folklore, it is said that rosemary will only grow in the gardens of the righteous.

Rosemary is a small perennial evergreen shrub of the mint family. It has slender, spiky greyish-green leaves which resemble miniature curved pine needles. It has a distinctive, sweet, pinewood flavor and is often used in the making of perfume. The flavor can dominate and taste bitter so use sparingly.

Cooking with fresh herb (rosemary) can be done in lamb dishes, soups, marinades or seafood. Insert a sprig or two into lamb, pork, veal, or poultry before roasting. Toss some onto charcoal over when cooking meat. Sprinkle chopped leaves over beef or fish before broiling. Use in soups, stews, sauces and vegetables. Try a little to make rosemary tea.



An intensely fragrant herb with soft, oblong, silvery green leaves. The most common cooking variety is the garden sage. Other varieties include purple sage and pineapple sage.

Sage has a potent, savory and earthy flavor. It can dominate and taste medicinal so use judiciously. It combines well with rich and fatty foods, breaking them down as an aid to digestion. Chop roughly or cut into fine ribbons and add at beginning of cooking.

Cooking with fresh herb (sage) can be done by pairing it with pork or veal for classic flavor combinations or use it to add an earthy quality to onions, winter squash, white beans and root-vegetable stews. Fry whole leaves in oil or butter to use as a tasty garnish. Use also with lamb, pork, sausage and in cheese dishes and omelets.



The ancient Greeks and Romans used thyme to flavor their cheese and liquor. Native tothe Mediterranean area, it is also cultivated in Southern Europe and the United States.

The thyme blossom is pale lavender and is a favorite with the honeybee. It has greyish greenleaves and is a perennial plant of the mint family. Available as dried leaves andground powder it has a distinctive warm, aromatic and slightly pungent flavor.

Cooking with fresh herb (thyme) can be done by using it primarily to season meat, poultry and fish. Seasoning clam chowder with thyme is a must. It is often used in bouquet garni to fully flavor stocks, sauces and soups. Adds depth to pasta sauce, roasting vegetables and even desserts. Dried thyme leaves can be sprinkled over an omelet or any cheese dish, a soup, casserole or any meat, fish or poultry dish.

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