September 11, 2021

Today’s Main Ingredient is herbs!
Our host Mikki Uzupes talks tasty herbs with Gudrun Feigl, owner/operator of Mount Pleasant Herbary in Maude Alley, on Main Street in Honesdale PA, and chef Marcia Dunsmore from the Myrtle Avenue Bakeshop in Hawley. Nutritionist Carol Kneier discusses the benefits of using culinary herbs to add flavors without the salt and sodium, plus some of the medicinal properties.

Be sure to scroll down for this week’s podcast extras at the bottom of the page.
Küchenkräuter-1Thyme, oregano and rosemary

About Herbs

Herbs generally refers to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots, and fruits. Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases, spiritual.

In the Garden

Baraques du 14 030Herbs add fragrance and texture to vegetable plots, flower gardens, window boxes, hanging baskets, and containers. They are easy to grow indoors or out and generally require minimal attention and little space.
Herbs can be annuals, perennials, or biennials.
• Perennials include bay leaves, chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and tarragon.
• Annuals include basil, chervil, cilantro, dill, summer savory.
• Biennial herbs include parsley. (Biennial herbs require two years to complete their whole life cycle. They produce leaves in the first season and flowers in the second, then die.)

Planting and Caring for Herbs

Herbs are forgiving plants and will grow in less-than-ideal conditions.
Planting: Most herbs grow best with at least six hours of sun a day. Sun-loving herbs include basil, fennel, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme and tarragon. Herbs that prefer partial sun include chives, cilantro, dill and mint.

When planting, give perennial herbs plenty of room to grow and fill out. Crowded plants compete with each other for nutrients and water and can be difficult to harvest. Air circulation is important for healthy growth, especially during humid weather.

Potted HerbsIf planting in containers, check growing information on seed packets or nursery tags for each herb’s needs for sunlight, water, and soil preferences. For example, rosemary likes it hot and dry while parsley needs steady moisture—so you’ll want to grow these in separate containers.

Watering: The types of leaves will help guide you on the amount of water needed. Herbs with soft succulent leaves like basil, chives, dill, mint, and parsley like steady moisture. Those with smaller, firmer leaves such as marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and tarragon like to dry out between watering. Drainage is important; many herbs do not like wet feet.

Mulching: Use organic mulch on all herbs to conserve moisture. For Mediterranean herbs that like sunny, dry conditions (oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and tarragon), mulch with white gravel to provide drainage and reflect the light.

Fertilizing: Herbs don’t require much fertilizer. In fact, heavy doses of nitrogen fertilizer will reduce the concentration of essential oils and degrade the flavor. The soil does not have to be overly fertile. In fact, if herbs are over-fertilized, they tend to be less flavorful.

Pruning: Herbs, and especially basil, respond well to regular pruning. In a process called “tipping,” pinch off the top inch or so of new growth. This will encourage the branch to grow outwards in two directions at the break to sprout new growth, and continue to grow bushier and more productive.

Dividing: Several perennial herbs will benefit from division including tarragon, oregano, chives, lovage, mints, lavender, and thyme. Divide in early spring or fall when the plant becomes too large or the center dies, usually every two to four years. Use a shovel to cut the plant into sections taking as much root as possible. Replant sections in new locations.


Potted culinary herbs• The rule of thumb is the more you pick, the more will grow; pinching back herbs will make them full and bushy.
• Pick at peak flavor when buds are just beginning to form but before they have flowered.
• Cut early in the morning just after the dew has dried rather than in the drying afternoon sun.

Drying Fresh Herbs
• Drying is the oldest and easiest method of preserving fresh herbs, while the modern method is freezing them.
• Herbs suitable for drying include bay, thyme, marjoram & rosemary; fragile herbs do not dry well.
• Choose a warm, dry, well-ventilated place to dry herbs. Avoid direct sunlight as it bleaches their color and diminishes their flavor.
• Tie herbs in bunches by their stems and hang them upside down. After about a week, when they are completely dry, leave them in sprigs or store in airtight containers.

In the Kitchen

Choices: Which herbs to plant & grow?
There are so many flavors and varieties of herbs that selecting which ones to grow can be somewhat overwhelming. A good starting point is to grow herbs whose flavors you like and use in your favorite recipes, those whose aroma is appealing, whose foliage or flowers are beautiful.

Consider choosing a theme or focus for your herb garden.
Focus on a food culture’s flavor profile:
• Asian: cilantro, Thai basil, Japanese parsley, and lemongrass.
-2019-07-21 Tarragon, (Artemisia dracunculus), Trimingham• French: Fine herbes are a traditional blend of parsley, chive, chervil, and tarragon. Herbes de Provence, another classic blend used in Southern France, includes basil, marjoram, rosemary, summery savory, thyme, lavender flowers, and bay leaf
• German: chives, dill, marjoram, parsley, and thyme
• Greek: basil, dill, fennel leaves, marjoram, and mint
• Italian: basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and fennel leaves are the iconic flavors of Italy
• Mexican: basil, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, savory, and thyme

Focus on useful herb combinations:
• Classic culinary herbs: basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme
• Grilling: fennel leaves, rosemary, savory, tarragon, and thyme
• Vinaigrettes: chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme
• Marinades: chives, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, and thyme

Two Kinds of Culinary Herbs

  1. Fragile Herbs – All of the following fragile, tender-leafed herbs are best if used raw, or if adding to cooked dishes, add at the very end, because heat greatly diminishes their flavor.
    Basil3800ppxBasil (aka Sweet Basil) has a peppery aromatic flavor that complements tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olives. It is an essential flavor in French, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine. Thai basil (aka Asian Basil) has a distinctive licorice flavor. It is a staple in Thai curries and Indian dishes. Its flavor holds up better in high or extended cooking temperatures than sweet basil. Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is revered in India and is used in daily worship as well as for culinary and other applications.
    Chervil has light-green, feathery leaves that differentiate it from parsley. It has a sweetish, anise-like flavor.
    Chives are related to onions and leeks, and impart a similar but more delicate flavor with garlic undertones. Use their delicate purple blossoms as a pretty and flavorful garnish with a stronger flavor than its mild leaves.
    Cilantro (aka Fresh Coriander) has a distinctive soapy flavor that is prized in Mexican, Latin, and Asian recipes. Note: Cilantro and coriander are different parts of the same plant. Cilantro refers to the leaves, while coriander refers to the seeds, which are typically ground and used as a spice.
    Dill is a pretty herb with feathery green leaves and a tangy flavor that pairs particularly well with garlic, lemon, and pepper. Both the seeds and the leaves are used for pickling, sauerkraut, and beet dishes. Seeds can be used in breads, potato salad, and to flavor spirits such as aquavit.
    Mint leaves have a cool, sweet, refreshing taste, best known are spearmint and peppermint. It should be picked fresh and used immediately as leaves don’t last for more than a day after harvest.
    Flat-leaf Italian ParsleyParsley is more than a garnish. Its grassy flavor adds depth to many dishes. Flat leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, has a stronger flavor than curly leaf parsley.
    Tarragon has an anise scent that pairs nicely with mustard and perfectly complements chicken, eggs, and cheese.
  2. Robust Herbs – Most of the following robust herbs hold up well to high temperatures and longer cooking times. Several are suitable for adding at the start of cooking soups, stews, and other hardy dishes. Some are sprinkled over roasted or grilled meats and poultry. (The exception here is fresh marjoram, which is added at the end of cooking.)
    Bay leaf is usually dried because when used fresh it can be bitter. Added early in the cooking process, it is easily removed before serving.
    Lemongrass is an Asian herb used widely in Thai and Indonesian cuisine. It has a strong, aromatic lemon flavor and very tough fibrous stems. When using lemon grass, remove the root end and the green top, pound the remaining white stems to loosen the fibers and release the oils, and thinly slice. Other lemon-flavored herbs in include lemon balm and lemon verbena.
    Marjoram has a sweet citrus flavor and assertive evergreen scent that goes well with meat, poultry, and fish. Fresh marjoram tastes best when added during the final moments of cooking.
    Oregano has a strongly aromatic, spicy flavor with sweet and sour notes. It is widely used in Italian, Greek, and Mexican cuisine. Its high oil content helps maintain its flavor and aroma when dried. Its flavor blossoms when sautéed in olive oil or butter.
    Rosemary-7566Rosemary has a vibrant pine flavor with hints of lemon undertones. It mellows to a delicate mustard flavor when grilled or roasted. Because the leaves are thick, chop them as finely as possible.
    Sage has velvety grey-green leaves with a savory, earthy flavor that intensifies as the leaves dry. Its flavor holds up better than most herbs to cooking and can be used with roasts, soups, sauces, and stuffing. Fresh sage is also delicious in homemade salad dressing and marinades.
    Savory has an intense pepper flavor more pronounced in the winter variety than in the milder summer savory. It is widely used in Mediterranean cooking to flavor hardy vegetables like beans and mushrooms.
    Thyme belongs to the mint family and has a very aromatic clove-like flavor. Thyme adds depth to sauces, stews, soups, casseroles, and vegetables dishes.

Thyme-Bundle• To store fresh herbs with short stems, put them in an unsealed plastic bag or wrap them in a moist paper town and refrigerate them. They should keep for about a week.
• Herbs with longer stems can be treated like cut flowers: put them in a small container of water and leave them at room temperature, or refrigerate them covered with a loose plastic bag.
• Herbs with their roots intact are best of all: wrap the roots in a damp paper towel, cover with a plastic bag, leaving the leaves outside, and then refrigerate.
• Wash fresh herbs when ready to use them.

Maximizing Flavor
Raw: The taste of any herb is most characteristic when it is uncooked.
• Puree raw herbs for the base of various green sauces.
• Chop raw herbs to feature in cold sauces.
• Use whole leaves in salads and as a decoration.
• When herbs that are ground in a mortar and pestle or food processor their oils are released, intensifying their flavor, as in pesto sauce.
Cooked: Not all herbs behave the same way when cooking.
• While fragile herbs rapidly lose their flavor during cooking, more robust herbs benefit from lengthy cooking since their flavors infuse the dish more slowly.
• Stems may be included for extra flavor in a cooked dish and discarded before serving.
• Chopping bruises the leaves of more fragile herbs but has little effect on robust ones.

Fresh vs. Dried Herbs
Growing leaves of garden sage (Salvia officinalis)Because dried herbs are often more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you need less than if you’re cooking with fresh herbs. The general rule of thumb for substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs is the following ratio: one tablespoon of fresh herbs to one teaspoon of dried herbs.


Herbed Summer Vegetables – serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup loosely packed mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, chives & oregano
8 ounces feta cheese
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound yellow patty-pan squash
8 ounces green beans
1 pound ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill
Salt and pepper

Step 1 – Mince the mixed herbs. See this video on how to chop and mince fresh herbs, courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America.

Step 2 – Crumble feta cheese into a small bowl, drizzle with 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and stir in the mixed herbs until thoroughly incorporated.

Step 3 – Heat the remaining Tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the squash and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 4 – Add the beans and toss to mix. Cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to turn vivid green, 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 5 – Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly until the squash is translucent, the beans are bright green and crisp-tender, and the tomatoes have softened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Step 6 – Season with salt and generously with pepper. Mince the dill and add to the vegetables, mixing well so it is evenly distributed. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter and distribute the seasoned feta cheese on top. Serve immediately.

Download Recipe

Green Goddess Salad Dressing – makes 1 1/2 cups
Serve with your favorite summer salad ingredients.

1 cup low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped basil
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1 Tablespoon thinly sliced scallion
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
A dash of hot pepper sauce (optional)

Feel free to substitute any of the following herbs for those listed above: basil, dill, and/or mint.
Preparation – Process all ingredients in a food processor or a blender.

Store excess in a covered bowl or bottle in the refrigerator.

Download Recipe

Podcast Extras!

Some great growing and cooking tips:

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Today's Main Ingredient is sponsored in part by:

Greater Pike Community Foundation
Overlook Estate Foundation
Wayne-Pike Farm Bureau

Thanks also to Fertile Valley and Wolfe Spring Farms for their sponsorship of the BoldGold radio station broadcasts.

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