The Garden Muse: Let’s consider herbs: fresh vs. dried
Published 10:00 am Friday, May 12, 2023
When cooking with herbs which is better: fresh or dried? The answer to this question is it depends on the specific herb and what it will be used for.
Fresh cut herbs will always contain a higher vitamin content and due to their higher water content, they will not be as bold as dried herbs are in prepared dishes.
Delicate herbs such as parsley, tarragon, and chives will lose much of their flavor when dried. These delicate herbs along with cilantro and mint should always be added to a dish fresh and after it has been prepared, for maximum flavor.
Always wash fresh herbs before using them, whether organic or conventionally grown. I even wash mine fresh cut from the garden to rinse off any soil, pollen or insect matter that may not be seen by the naked eye.
Never store fresh cut basil or mint in the refrigerator, the cold air will damage the delicate tissue of these herbs and they will wilt and turn color.
Have you ever wondered why fresh cut herbs are sometimes bundled and hung upside down to dry? It is done so the essential oils in the herb will flow downward to the leaves from the stem. Providing a higher content when dried.
Dried herbs are often much duller in color than fresh, this is due to enzymes in the leaves breaking down the chlorophyll which gives the plant its vibrant green color. This is a natural process that cannot be changed. All dried herbs will turn brown or gray as they age. They also lose some nutrients through the dehydrating process.
Dried herbs are often crushed after being dried, concentrating their flavor and making them a much stronger flavor profile in a prepared dish. They also hold up well to heat and will release more flavor when rehydrated during the cooking process.
For optimal flavor and color, dried herbs kept in the cupboard should be used within three months. For those kept in the refrigerator or freezer, use within one year.
Good quality herbs can be pricey…in general most dried herbs can safely be kept for up to 1-2 years depending on the type of herb, processing, and storage container.
When utilizing fresh vs dried herbs in a recipe, remember that one tablespoon of fresh herbs is equivalent to one teaspoon of dried.
Dawn Conrad is a Retired Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbalist, Writer and Artist. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.