For most of us who grow our own humble herbs we have some understanding of which herbs complement each other, and when to use together. Also which herbs complement different foods, to bring out their best flavours. It’s mostly through trial and error, but that’s not a bad thing as we all have different taste buds and it is “each to your own taste” after all! Having said that, we thought we would give you a little common ‘guidance’ on what we have found. This may just help steer you to the right pathway if you’ve no idea what to do with herbs and have not used them 'fresh' before.
So here's our simple inspiration on herbs that work best together and which dishes they would complement;
Complimentary Combinations of humble herbs that go well together
Sweet marjoram – Thyme – Oregano
Basil – Thyme – Oregano
Dill – Chives – Parsley
Parsley – Basil – Chives
Coriander – Thyme – Sweet marjoram
Tarragon – Parsley – Chives – Chervil
Don’t be perturbed Choose the right Herb!
The ultimate summer herb, basil is fragrant with a slightly sweet taste. Basil is delicate and easily bruised so the best way to harvest is to tear the leaves or use them whole.
Uses: Basil is the backbone to pesto and great on pizzas as well and perfect stirred into a marinara sauce. Use also in salad dressings, eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, beef, and no tomato, mozzarella salad is complete without it.
Chives have a mellow onion flavour with long leaves that are round and hollow. To use simply cut to desired length with a knife or scissors.
Uses: Chives are delicious in green salads and potato salads. Chives are delicious with eggs; try them in your scrambled or deviled eggs. Use also in cheese sauces, gravies, dips and vegetable dishes.
Nothing divides people quite like coriander. You either love it or hate it. Coriander is distinctive and bright. It has small, round and delicate leaves with long stems. Coarsely chop the leaves and delicate stems or use the leaves whole.
Uses: Coriander is most often found in Asian, Mexican and Latin American cuisine. You can find it in Vietnamese spring rolls and Thai curries but we know it best in Mexican foods like guacamole and salsas. Use also in breads, fruit dishes and with lamb.
Dill has a mild aniseed flavour with long and wispy leaves. When using dill it can simply be coarsely chopped or torn.
Uses: Dill goes very well with roasted carrots, parsnips and beets. It’s perfect with salmon, potato salads and any kind of egg you like. Also use in salads, soups, sauces and with seafood
Marjoram is often mistaken for oregano. However, marjoram leaves have a sweeter, milder flavour and aroma.
Uses: Marjoram is a primary herb used in Italian cooking. It is one of the main additions in sausages, pizza. Also used with most meats and in poultry stuffing. Fresh marjoram is commonly used in salad dressings, soups, stews, marinades as well as in egg dishes
Peppermint has a cool aftertaste with leaves bright green that looks a little waxy. Spearmint on the other hand is a little milder but still has that cool aftertaste with similar leaves, though less waxy. Simply pick the leaves when needed.
Uses: Try peppermint whole or muddled in iced tea, lemonade or mojitos. Also delicious used torn and tossed with sliced strawberries and sugar. Perfect for desserts but just as delicious used in a mint sauce for lamb or sprinkled over prosciutto and melon.
Oregano is pungent and slightly peppery with leaves that are short and wide. The leaves can be used whole or chopped.
Uses: Oregano goes well with tomatoes, eggplant, mushroom dishes, fish, pork and a marinade for lamb. However, it’s probably best known for the part it plays in pizzas and pastas.
Parsley is slightly peppery and very versatile. It looks similar to cilantro but has pointier and slightly heartier leaves. To harvest parsley simply cut the leaves from the stems and coarsely chop them.
Uses: Parsley goes particularly well with mushrooms, peas, tomatoes, as well as pasta, fish and chicken dishes. Chop and sprinkle into soups, stews and over salads. Though a tender herb by nature, it can withstand longer cooking than most in its family.
Sage is earthy and pungent. Its leaves are medium size with a velvety texture. With sage a little goes a long way and can be used whole or chopped.
Uses: Delicious roasted with sweet potatoes, butternut squash or cauliflower as well and is the perfect accompaniment to pork and sausages. Use also in salads, pickles, cheese dishes and most commonly in stuffing.
Rosemary is woodsy with lemon and pine aromas. It has thin leaves that look a little like pine needle. To harvest Use your fingers, pull the rosemary needles from the sprig in the opposite direction they grow. Use them whole or chopped.
Uses: Commonly used in Mediterranean cuisines, rosemary can stand up to bold flavours and long cooking. Rosemary is delicious in marinades for beef, chicken and lamb. Roasted with potatoes and vegetables or stirred into beef stews and soups.
Tarragon is aromatic with a distinctive liquorice flavour. Its leaves are long and thin. When harvesting simply chop or snip with scissors.
Uses: Next time you make a chicken pie, try adding chopped tarragon. It also goes really well with eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and fish and sprinkled into green salads. Also use in salad dressings, marinades and sauces.
Thyme is a fragrant herb with mint and lemon aromas. Its leaves are small and grow on sprigs. To harvest simply pull leaves from the sprig in the opposite direction they grow – there’s no need to chop. You can also use the sprigs whole.
Uses: Thyme is incredibly versatile and delicious in soups and casseroles or roasted with fish or pork. Also goes well with a variety of vegetables like carrots, peas and tomatoes.
You will find some delicious recipes using herbs at http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/herb
For anyone who loves good food where taste matters, you can’t beat growing your own herbs and using them fresh from the plant when you need them.