Herb Varieties

Can you tell the difference between parsley and chervil? Do you know how to recognize nutmeg and allspice? Do you know how to properly store herbs and spices so that they remain fresh? Foodservice professionals need to know:

• In what forms they are available.

• What their flavors and aromas are.

• How to correctly use them to enhance the flavor of food.

Herbs and spices enhance the flavor of food, but you must use them correctly. Incorrect use can ruin the flavor of foods.

Herbs are a flavoring that adds color and aroma to foods. An herb is a plant that grows in temperate climates. The parts of the plant that are harvested are the leaves and the stems. They can be used fresh or dried.

Basil, chives, oregano, and sage are examples of herbs. Fresh herbs should be used whenever possible. Fresh herbs are most abundant, or plentiful, in the summer. In the fall, fresh herbs can be dried or frozen for use during the winter. Knowing which herb to use, when to use it, and with what food is an important aspect of your job.

Herb Use

Herbs can be used with a variety of cold and hot dishes. Some herbs have a delicate flavor, while others have a bold flavor. Herbs can be purchased in two forms: fresh and dried. Fresh herbs are not as strong in flavor as dried herbs. When you use fresh herbs, you should use twice the amount of dried herbs that are called for in a recipe.

Fresh herbs should be minced or crushed as close to cooking or serving time as possible. They should be added at the end of the cooking process. You can add fresh herbs to uncooked foods, such as salads, several hours before serving time. Herbs often need plenty of time to release their flavor to cold foods. Dried herbs should be added at the beginning of or during the cooking process. Use a little and taste the food before you add more. Using too much can ruin the dish.

Some herbs and foods are natural combinations. For example, lamb is often flavored with rosemary. Basil seems to go hand-in-hand with tomato sauce. However, chefs often experiment with different combinations to create interesting dishes. You may also want to experiment with combining complementary herbs in a dish to see how they enhance flavor together.

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