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Be Honest: How Many of These Common Herbs Do You Really Use?

It's easy to keep an herb garden. It's harder to actually use all of those herbs. 

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Tarragon, oregano, and their siblings make for the perfect purchase -- they're so fragrant! So easy to maintain! And you'll definitely use them all of the time. Who says you don't know how to season your food? 

 

But it's only a matter of time before Sriracha and sea salt become your go-to seasonings (with the occasional dash of cayenne). Your oregano plant sits unused on the sill. 

 

So you call yourself a foodie? Have you ever actually used chervil? What about tarragon? And if your answer is "in a French herb omelet" or "in a pesto that one time," then you're wrong -- you haven't used them. We're talking real use -- in pastas, cream sauces, and even on your grill. Test your herb knowledge below. 

 

It's Time to Take a Fresh Look at Herbs
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Rosemary?

We'll start you off with an easy one.

Rosemary is a wonderful name for a baby girl, and it looks great as a tiny topiary for your Christmas table. For most of us, it's also just the giant untouched plant in the herb garden. Rosemary, the herb (not the baby), has a pleasant, woody flavor, great for meats and anything that's been barbecued.

Try these:

Rosemary Walnuts 

Roasted Chicken Diavolo

Rosemary Corn Muffins

Rosemary Grilled Steak with Sweet Onions

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Bay Leaves? 

Perhaps you've seen them before -- little dried leaves tucked into bottles, resembling something out of an apothecary's office. Bay leaves look intimidating; it's a whole leaf, for Pete's sake! And you're supposed to just put that into your soup? What's next, twigs? But these scrappy little guys pull a lot of of flavor out of nowhere: Simmer them in your stew for a while, and you might find yourself impressed with their work. Just one bay leaf will lend your dish a dark floral scent -- think something a little more sophisticated than oregano -- so you kind of have to be stingy with these.

 

Bay leaves work best when given a moment to release their oils -- that's why they're so often featured in soups and curries. But stay with it! The payoff is well worth it. 

 

Pickled Carrots

Bay Leaf Crusted Pork Roast

Prime Rib and Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Annatto Rice with Sausage and Tomato

Get to Know Bay Leaves: Try Them With Pickled Carrots
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Photography by: Marcus Nilsson

Oregano?

Widely used in Italian-inspired cooking, this herb is often thought of as a pizza topping. But fresh oregano is pretty easy to find and equally as delicious. The flavor, akin to marjoram, is gentle but aromatic. It works best on fish -- fish flavor doesn't need much help. 

 

Try these:

Snapper with Oregano

Chicken Posole

Stuffed Pepper Bites

Lamb Meatballs with Tomato-Mint Cream

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Chervil?

Yup, that's right. Can you even pronounce it? How many times have you actually used it?

 

Once again, if your answer is: "I threw it into some herbed biscuits one time," then you haven't used it. Chervil is often regarded as a more delicate version of parsley -- it's flavor is slight. So we can't fault you for not knowing it very well: Chervil's a little shy. It's slightly anise-like in flavor, although not as strong as anise itself. It's an all-purpose herb, not too offensive in flavor and just flavorful enough to not be boring. Chervil could be your best friend -- if you tried it. It likes long walks on the beach and decorating your omelettes. 

 

Chervil's flexible -- it can truly pair with almost any food, although it prefers starches and grains. Try it in your potato salad, or in a wild rice pilaf -- maybe even mixed into your salad dressing! With chervil, anything goes. 

 

Try these:

Chervil Cream

Lobster Chowder

Ravioli with Peas

Salmon and Leeks in Parchment

 

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Tarragon?

You were totally gonna use that tarragon -- we get it. But the fact of the matter is that tarragon is a little funny-looking and it tastes like liquorice. 

 

But it's time to get to know tarragon. Step out of your cooking rut and take a look around. The slightly anise flavor of the herb makes it perfect for roasts and the like. Why not decorate your pork roast with tarragon leaves? And why stick with your old lemonade when you could have a more herbaceous version?

 

Try these:

Tarragon Lemonade

Chicken Fricasse

Shrimp Rolls

Tarragon Chicken Salad

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