Preparing an herbal garden for spring

Herbal Gardening - The Culinary Herbs

Whatever your style of cooking, you'll find a wide range of herbs that will add just that right touch. They can turn a bland dish into a chef's work of art.

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Herbs have been used as cooking additives for millenia. They may be spicy or salty or tangy or just plain delicious, but whatever your favorite recipe there's an herb to suit it.

Who hasn't used a bit of parsley in a fish dish? This versatile herb is good for chicken, lamb and cheese dishes. There's no need to limit it to just a sprig on the side for appearance's sake, however. It makes for a nice addition in soups and salads, as well.

Thyme, which comes from the leaves of a small woody-stemmed plant, is one of the most common ingredients in recipes. It works perfectly in a tuna casserole, in a sauce spread on top of beef or in a fine stew. Grilled chicken, cheeses... just about everything benefits from a little thyme.

Basil is quite possibly the most common addition to Italian dishes, and for good reason - it adds just the right touch of flavor. Whether it's pasta, pizza, or even soup, this herb has a hundred uses. Sprinkle some basil on when preparing that tomato paste recipe that's been handed down in your family, and you're on your way to a fine dish.

Want something a little more spicy?

If you like foods on the spicy side, you should try some aniseed. The oil of anise has a licorice-like flavor (which is why it's used to make artificial licorice) that will make a nice twist on a traditional dish. A related herb is Tarragon. The narrow leaves have a spicy flavor that is a great complement for fish, or to spice up some mayonnaise.

Coriander seeds, from the plant that forms the base of cilantro, is another favorite. With their pungent, citrusy flavor they are great on pork or in a curry. The mild and sweet zing coriander provides makes for great chutney, too.

Dill is another herb that has a bit of a tang, making it the perfect herb for pickling, or just on a salad. Often used in chutney, dill is also a fine addition to olive oil.

All sorts of herbs that are members of the mint family are used in cooking. Sage is one of the most common, and rosemary is another. Peppermint, of course, makes for a wonderful addition to a variety of dishes where it gives a zestful odor and taste. Mint complements veal or potatoes equally well, and it's used in soups and even in making jelly.

Saffron is less common, but should be tried by anyone feeling adventurous. Its honey-like flavor, but with a distinctive pungency, provides a slightly different result from the usual ingredients. The Turks use it in a traditional rice pudding, but it also makes for a wonderful addition to chicken or fish dishes.

Whatever your style of cooking, you'll find a wide range of herbs that will add just that right touch. They can turn a bland dish into a chef's work of art.

Book of Culinary Herbs
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Herbal Gardening - Culinary Herbs
Page Updated 2:38 PM Saturday 6/28/2014