Herbs are also products used to flavor foods, but come from the leafy green part of a plant.
Here is a complete list of herbs with explanations:
Basil – There are more than 50 species of basil, but almost all basil used in the United States is one species that comes from either California, Egypt or France. Basil has a better flavor when dried, as opposed to fresh. Dried basil has anise, pepper and minty undertones and it somehow sweet yet savory at the same time.
Bay Leaves – Bay leaves are the whole dried leaves of a tree in the laurel family. Bay leaves have a much more pleasant flavor when dried, with has a higher volatile oil content. Bay leaves are used in their whole form in soups and stews and are removed before serving. Ground bay leaves are added to seasoning blends and dishes to give an earthy flavor with undertones of nutmeg and clove.
Celery Flakes – Celery Flakes add a great authentic celery taste, though rehydrate they do not accurately mimic the texture of fresh celery. With a bright and fresh flavor, they can also be used as a garnish.
Chervil – Chervil is not very popular in the United States on its own but is used to make the blend Fines Herbs. Even in France Chervil is not very popular, most likely because it is related to an infamous English weed called Cow Parsley. For this reason, the French only use chervil in the previously mentioned Fines Herbs or in making béarnaise sauce.
Cilantro Leaves – Many people know cilantro as the herb that people love or hate, saying it either has a delicious flavor or tastes like soap. Cilantro is a key ingredient in authentic Mexican, Caribbean and Asian dishes. In the United States cilantro is used in beans, salsas, soups and dips.
Curry Leaves – Curry leaves are an essential part of Southern Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines. They are used in a similar way to bay leaves, but unlike bay leaves they do not need to be removed before serving because they are much softer. Curry leaves are used in curry, fish, lamb, lentil and vegetable dishes.
Dill Weed – In the United States dill weed is most recognized for the “dill flavor” that it gives to dill pickles. Besides pickles, dill is used to give fish a recognizable crisp flavor. In Europe, dill weed has a much wider range of uses. It is considered a key herb in dishes such as salads, sauces, spreads, soups and fish. Visually it is similar to rosemary, but it is a more vibrant green color.
Dried Chives – Chives are the smallest member of the onion family, and instead of eating the bulb it is the scapes (the long flowering stems that rise from the bulb) that are utilized. They can be used in any recipe that calls for green onion and work well in cream-based products. Some of the most popular uses for chives are flavoring butters, cream cheese and sauces or dressings.
Dried Fenugreek Leaves – Dried Fenugreek Leaves are extremely aromatic, with a strangely addictive bitterness. Though they are often used as a garnish, they are very flavorful and it can be easy to overwhelm a dish.
Dried Rose Petals – There are two different types of roses, with the most common being the deeply colored flowers that come in a bouquet. The second type of roses are culinary roses which have been developed to have a much more pleasing flavor and less of an aesthetically pleasing color. Culinary rose petals are most popular for their use in rose water and are also used in desserts or jams.
Epazote – Epazote is a Mexican herb that gets similar reactions to cilantro when smelled and eaten. Those who enjoy epazote describe the aroma and flavor as earthy and bitter with hints of mint and citrus. Those who do not enjoy epazote describe the flavor and aroma as similar to gasoline, perfume and turpentine. Epazote is used in a number of traditional Mexican recipes including papadzules, bean dishes, enchiladas and moles.
File Powder – Pronounced fee-lay, File Powder is a spice made from dried, ground sassafras leaves. File powder is most notably used in gumbo as a flavoring and thickener all in one. File powder can also be used to season shrimp, scallops and other seafood with rice.
Kaffir Lime – Kaffir lime leaves are the leaves of a bitter lime tree in which the limes are only used for their zest and not their juice. These leaves are popular in Cambodian, Balinese, Malaysian and Thai cuisines and are removed before serving. Kaffir lime leaves are used in the popular Thai dish tom yum and they work well with chicken and snails.
Lavender – Also known as culinary lavender, lavender has an intense floral flavor with a hint of bitterness that can quickly overpower dishes. The aroma of lavender is spicy and slightly floral with undertones of mint and lemon. Lavender is delicious when used in desserts, but it can also be used in savory applications such as chicken, lamb and rabbit dishes.
Lemongrass – Lemongrass is part of the grass family and is popular in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine. It is best when used fresh, but if using dried it should be soaked before use when the dish does not have a large liquid component. Lemongrass provides a light fresh citrus and floral flavor to foods and can even be used to make tea.
Marjoram – Marjoram has a minty, sharp and bitter flavor profile and is popular in European cuisine. It can be used in almost any dish that you would include basil, oregano or thyme in and is an extremely versatile herb. In the United States marjoram is used commercially in salad dressings, soups, cheeses, bologna and poultry seasonings.
Mint – Spearmint is the most called for of the two mints, with peppermint being the lesser called for. Spearmint has a refreshing and mellow pure flavor that is popular in Greek, Middle Eastern and Turkish cuisines. Peppermint on the other hand has a more intense flavor and provides that ‘cold’ sensation on your tongue. It is popular in baking, chocolate sauces and liquors.
Oregano – Oregano is commonly associated with Italy and pizza, but there are two main types of oregano, Mediterranean oregano and Mexican oregano. Mediterranean oregano is the type used in Americanized Italian dishes and Mexican oregano is more like marjoram and has citrusy, lime-like undertones.
Parsley – Parsley is a popular garnish because of its bright green color, but it can be eaten too! Parsley has a vegetable aroma and flavor that is prominent in Middle Eastern recipes for hummus, baba ganoush and tabbouleh. Parsley also works well in grain-based dishes, with fish and in pastas and soups.
Rosemary – Rosemary has a very distinct, strong flavor that is minty, cooling and somewhat balsamic. The aroma is just as strong and has hints of eucalyptus. Rosemary works well with meats of all kinds, especially lamb, pork, veal and wild game. It also works well with dairy based foods such as cream cheese, butters and cream sauces.
Sage – In the United States sage is an herb that stays in its comfort zone, being an ingredient in poultry seasoning, sausages and cheese, but we think you should take a note from the Brits and make this a staple herb in your kitchen, as it can bring flavor to an incredible number of dishes. With a robust peppery and savory flavor sage can be added to any dish that is rich in fat or has a savory component. It can even be added to dark iced teas for a deliciously new flavor.
Summer Savory – Also known as just ‘savory’, summer savory has a peppery bite and light herby flavor. It is like a cross between mint, marjoram and thyme. Summer savory is slightly milder than its close relative winter savory and is used in hearty dishes such as beans, stews, cabbage, potatoes and stuffing for meat pies. It is sometimes a special ingredient in pickling mixes.
Tarragon – Tarragon is most notable for its use in French cooking. The flavor is light, warm and sweet with hints of anise and mint. It is a key ingredient in the herb blend Herbs de Provence and is typically used in combination with other herbs to highlight their individual flavors. Tarragon works well with dill, parsley, chives and basil and can be used to flavor chicken, mushrooms, eggs, seafood and vegetables.
Thyme – Thyme, the subject of many a spice pun, is popular in a plethora of European cuisines for its strong, fresh, lemony flavor. It is used to give flavor to sauces, vinegars, soups and stews. In the United States thyme is most recognized for its use in Creole cooking to add flavor to blackened meats and fish. It is used in turkey stuffing, sausages and New England clam chowder.
Can you think of any more?
If you have any questions or doubts, please ask in the comments or send me a private message.