Nowadays, you will find it easy to get both fresh and dried herbs. With their availability in stores and all packed for your convenience, sometimes you can be unsure what would go best with the fresh ones or dried ones. Read on to learn better on the difference between fresh herbs and dried herbs.
In the perspective of culinary arts, one can easily describe herb as any green or leafy part of a plant that is used to season, flavor, or enhance a dish. Yes, these green leafy parts of the leaves are not the main ingredient, but the little something that ties in the dish.
To explain this much clearer, take the cabbage as an example. While it is green as a whole, it is not an herb because we have cabbages cut up and prepared as a dish itself. We do not use its leaves to add flavor to the dish. It becomes the main ingredient rather than an ingredient that improves the scent or fragrance of the dish. So, that makes the cabbage a vegetable instead of an herb.
How would we best define an herb.
We could best define herbs as plants that come with fragrant and/or aromatic characteristics. That explains why whenever we watch a reality cooking show, we always see Chefs smelling the herbs before deciding on which one they would go for to present in their dish. To these Chefs, it is incredibly important for them to choose the right kind of herb to flavor their food, not just in terms of improving the fragrance, but to also bring in health benefits. The more popular and commonly known herbs are like parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill, basil—and these are just a few of the many herbs around the world.
Now keep in mind that we mentioned how an herb is the green or leafy part of certain plants. And examining closer, they all come in varying sizes. Take the basil leaves for example, some of them can be quite large; even the bay leaf too, an herb that is commonly used in cooking, can be quite big. Then you have the small and delicate leaves of the rosemary herb where they look like a part of the evergreen plant.
And that is also why Chefs use them as part of the dish to bring about something refreshing, aromatic, or where the flavors of the dish come together as a whole. Of course, herbs are not just limited to be used in savory dishes. In fact, sweet or savory, herbs are just a lovely way to add flavor and color to any sort of dish or beverage. In addition, in adding flavor, enhancing the aroma of a dish, or even improving its presentation, herbs also tend to have their own set of health benefits.
But wait, herbs are not spices.
If they were the same, they would not have different names. There is an essential contrast between an herb and spice. That is with what part of the plant they originated from. Since the herb is a green part or a leaf of a plant, that makes the other element of the plant the spice. And these spices include its roots, berries, seeds, twigs, dried barks, or any other of its matter that is used to also, liven and spice up a dish.
A good example would be the cinnamon. The cinnamon bark itself is, well, the bark of a tree. Then you have the cardamom which is a seed pod. The allspice that the East Africans use in their day-to-day cooking—It is a dried berry. In addition, you also have cloves which are the flower buds of the clove tree. Found in both whole and ground forms, this versatile spice can be used to season pot roasts, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes. These are all examples of spices. So, we hope that makes things clear.
Now, because herbs can come in a fresh form and dried form, it can be useful to know the difference between fresh herbs and dried herbs. Yes, while they are the same plant, just in a varied form, that small form difference itself may affect how and when you can use them, and how long you can store them.
When is the best time to use Fresh Herbs?
Frankly speaking, fresh herbs are just lovely because they come naturally as they are. And these fresh herbs are often used in recipes where you would want their flavors to be imparted quickly.
Think of dishes where they are put together in a brief time such as salads or a dish that involves no cooking, that is when the flavoring is added at the very end, exactly right before the recipe is done. Sometimes, these fresh herbs are also used as a garnish to a dish or even a drink, like the mocktails! Because these fresh herbs carry notes of lightness and vibrance, they add a great dimension to the recipes.
And if you are making a raw dish such as a tossed salad, you can really amp it up with some fresh herbs. A pasta salad with fresh basil can be amazing. And this is also where the uncooked and dried herbs lose out to the fresh herbs. Because dried herbs tend to have a dusty taste, they really cannot be used to substitute the freshness of the fresh herbs. You cannot just toss in dried parsley at the end of a cream sauce. But fresh parsley? Works like a charm!
And that is why there are certain herbs that are always better fresh as they tend to lose their distinctive flavor when dried. Delicate, leafy herbs like parsley, tarragon, and chives are always superior when used fresh in a dish. Dried herbs will have a stronger flavor compared to fresh herbs, however, to have those flavors to be released, you will have to cook them. Because fresh herbs are delicately flavored, so if you are adding them to your cooking, just make sure you only do so in the last few minutes, so they do not lose their freshness. After cooking a dish containing fresh herbs for 10 or 15 minutes, all the volatile oils and esters cook away that make fresh herbs taste fresh, which defeats the entire purpose of adding them in the first place!
Keep tasting your dish as you go along, that will give you an idea if it needs more herbs or not. If there are not enough herbs used, then minor difference will be made to the flavor of the dish. But then overusing them too may cause their flavor to overwhelm other ingredients and eventually leave you tasting the herbs only. So, always remember to use your fresh herbs sparingly.
When to is the best time to use Dried Herbs?
Dishes that require a long time to cook such as stews or slow meat braises, where the overdue heat helps to develop its flavors gradually, this is where we would use the dried herbs.
Dried herbs, though they do not carry the lightness and freshness of their fresh counterparts, they are concentrated in flavor due to the lack of moisture. Therein explains why they work well in dishes that take time to cook, allowing them to slowly infuse their flavors into the recipe and creating a depth of flavor to it. Even when it comes down to a wide range of marinades or dry rubs for meats and fishes, dried herbs form the foundation for those marinades and rubs.
So should you be making a delicious stew, sauce, or soup that needs time to bubble away for some time, be sure to take advantage of the dried herbs to give them flavor! Some noteworthy, dried herbs that you should keep in your pantry include thyme, rosemary, fennel seeds, oregano, and curry leaves! Just be sure to chop the tough leaves of some dried herbs before you have them added to your dish.
Loved what you have read about fresh herbs and dried herbs? Now read on the ways on how to store them!
Be adventurous with herbs!
Now that you know when to use fresh herbs and dried herbs, you can use them in an unlimited number of ways. Take time to explore the various kinds of herbs you have around you. And if you do not know where to begin, try looking out for recipes that call for herbs you have never tried before. Or you could always play about with those recipes and substitute those herbs with different herbs, see where it takes your dish!
Other things you could also do is planting your own herbs. Can’t get any fresher than that now, can we? It saves you plenty of time and there is something about nurturing and giving care to your own harvest that makes things special. Growing some herbs in pots on your windowsill or in your garden can be therapeutic. And when they are ready, you could use them in your cooking at ease. Make them into a bouquet garni and pop them into your soup! Besides improving the flavors, fragrance, looks, and textures in your meals, the more herbs you bring into your life, the wider the variety of potential health benefits you are likely to get!
Fresh vs Dried: Which is better?
We are not here to convince you which is superior to the other. In fact, never let anyone tell you otherwise. Both fresh and dried herbs come in their own charms and benefits. And that’s just how life is too, don’t you think so? You just need to know when and how to use them, and the rewards will be worth reaping.
Inspire your taste buds.
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