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Herb Glossary

Seek out fresh herbs that look bright and healthy and are fragrant. To store fresh herbs, wrap them in damp paper towels, then wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 to 5 days. Alternatively, keep long-stemmed fresh herbs in a container of water, like a bouquet of flowers. Most herbs are best when used fresh, although heartier varieties can be used dried. If replacing fresh herbs with dried ones, use about one-third of the dried form. So if your recipe calls for 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano, use 1 tsp. dried.

Basil
Used in kitchens throughout the Mediterranean and in Southeast Asia, basil tastes faintly of anise and cloves. Many different varieties are available, including common green Italian basil and reddish-purple Thai basil.

Bay
These elongated gray-green leaves are used to flavor sauces, soups, stews and braises, imparting a slightly sweet, citrusy, nutty flavor. Remove bay leaves from a dish before serving. Fresh bay leaves can occasionally be found in your market but you’re more likely to find them dried in the spice aisle.

Chive
These long, thin, dark green members of the onion family lend color and a mild flavor to savory dishes and are often used to give an onionlike flavor without the bite. The slender, hollow leaves can be snipped with a pair of kitchen shears, which is easier than chopping.

Cilantro
Used extensively in Mexican, Asian and Latin American cuisines, this fresh green herb has a distinctive, slightly soapy flavor and a pungent scent. Also known as Chinese parsley or fresh coriander, cilantro loses its pungency quickly when cooked, so add it at the end of cooking or use it raw.

Dill
Fine and feathery and with a distinct aromatic flavor, dill is often used in savory preparations and in the making of pickles.

Lavender

The flowering lavender plant with its highly perfumed blossoms, leaves and stalks grows wild in southern France, where it is a signature seasoning. Use sparingly to flavor lamb or poultry, or infuse syrups for use in dessert making.

Marjoram
Fresh marjoram has a delicate floral taste that enhances many Italian dishes, especially ones that include tomatoes. Marjoram is a cousin to oregano, which is sometimes called wild marjoram, but its flavor is more subtle than oregano’s.

Mint
The mint family includes hundreds of species, but the variety most commonly used in the kitchen is spearmint. Its lively aroma adds complexity to salsas and sauces. Mint can also be combined with other herbs in rubs and marinades.

Oregano
This aromatic, pungent and spicy herb, also known as wild marjoram, is used fresh or dried as a seasoning for a host of savory dishes. Mexican oregano has a flavor distinct from other varieties and is worth seeking out for Mexican recipes. 

Parsley

Two types of parsley are commonly available: curly-leaf and flat-leaf, or Italian, parsley. The curly variety was most often used to garnish plates in the United States. Flat-leaf parsley is preferred for cooking because of its clean, fresh taste.

Rosemary

A Mediterranean herb, rosemary looks like pine needles on a woody stick. This herb’s assertive flavor pairs well with lamb, many vegetables and seafood, but it should be used in moderation. If using dried rosemary, finely crumble it before adding it to a dish.

Sage

A perennial that grows profusely in Italy, sage has aromatic, soft, gray-green leaves. In Roman times, this pungent herb was valued for its medicinal properties. Today, its chief use is in the kitchen to season poultry, veal, pork and other dishes.

Tarragon

This mildly sweet herb has long, narrow, deep green leaves and a taste reminiscent of anise. Take care when adding tarragon, as its relatively strong flavor can overpower delicate ingredients. Tarragon complements vegetables, fish, chicken and egg dishes especially well.

Thyme

One of the most important culinary herbs of Europe, thyme delivers a floral, earthy flavor to all types of food, including vegetables (especially roots and tubers) and poultry. One variety, lemon thyme, adds a subtle citrus note and is excellent for seasoning seafood.