Fresh v Dried Herbs: Which Should You Use?
Are you ever confused about when to use fresh herbs and when to use dried herbs? It’s a great question that many home cooks face.
Popular wisdom says fresh herbs are the only way to go. In reality, the answer is less obvious. Both have their advantages and it depends on what your recipe calls for.
What are the differences?
To experience a herb’s true flavor, consume it straight after harvesting. The plant’s herbaceous, bright flavor shines through when it's fresh.
In comparison, herbs have a sharper, punchier flavor when dried. As they’ve been heated, they lose their moisture and develop a crispy texture. Some delicate herbs lose their flavor when heated (eg. peppermint, cilantro and parsley).
Other herbs are more robust such as fresh rosemary, thyme and mountain savory. These can simmer for longer and still retain their flavor.
Fresh herbs have a short shelf life so you need to use them quickly. If they get too old, they’ll lose their signature flavor. On the other hand, dried herbs sealed in a jar can last at least a year. They still retain some flavor, allowing you to eat more of them.
If you don’t have time to eat all your fresh herbs, drying them is a useful option. It prevents food waste and gives you more time to plan recipes. With dried herbs, you’ll always have something to flavor your dishes with.
Green herbs lose some nutrients in the drying process. They can also lose nutrients during storage. Let’s use the king of herbs (basil) as an example. One ounce of fresh basil gives you 8% of your daily value (DV) for vitamin C. It provides 30% of your DV for vitamin A and a whopping 145% of your DV for vitamin K.
What about the equivalent amount of dried basil? The numbers are much smaller. It provides only 2% of your DV for vitamin C, 4% for vitamin A and 43% for vitamin K.
When it comes to vitamin content, fresh herbs are better. Despite this, both fresh and dried herbs are naturally high in antioxidants. Whether you’re cooking with a tablespoon of fresh herbs or a teaspoon or dried herbs, both will contain some nutritional value.
To enjoy your herbs at their highest nutritional value, eat them soon after harvesting. If you wait too long, they’ll lose their potency.
This is one of the advantages of growing herbs in a Click & Grow indoor herb garden. You can harvest your herbs when they’re ready and pop them straight onto your plate. You can enjoy them in their tastiest and most nutritious state.
Using fresh herbs
Herbs can be separated into two categories: ‘soft’ and ‘hard’. Soft herbs like parsley have a gentle, balanced taste, making them popular for raw dishes such as salads, salsa sauces or ceviche. Sprinkle a teaspoon of freshly chopped herbs over your meal as a healthy seasoning.
Popular soft herbs:
Hard herbs taste more intense. Their stronger flavor makes them more suitable for cooked dishes. The heat blends their flavors into the meal without becoming overwhelming. These work well with pasta, soups, stews, poultry or fish dishes.
Popular hard herbs:
Timing is important when cooking with any fresh herb. Add fresh herbs towards the end of your cooking. This way you’ll preserve their delicate properties and aromas.
When it comes to harvesting fresh herbs from your Click & Grow smart garden, you can fully rely on our plant care info. We suggest harvesting herbs when they’re at their best. The best time for harvesting will vary for different herbs.
You can find this info by clicking on the herb’s product page in our catalog and then selecting the ‘plant care’ tab. You can also find helpful info in the Click & Grow mobile app and our how-to videos on YouTube.
Every herb has its own harvesting technique. This enables some to regrow and some to come again. Some herbs have a very tiny second harvest so it's best to harvest them in one go.
When checking out a plant’s info, it’s also important to note the ‘lasts up to’ date (or ‘harvest in' date). This helps to know when to harvest your plant. If the plant ages, it will lose much of its actual value.
Using dried herbs
Dried herbs work best in slow cooking - especially dishes that simmer for over 45 minutes. This is where their intense flavors and aromas really come to life. Dried rosemary is a common example of this.
Since they need time to rehydrate, it’s best to add dry herbs early in the cooking process (before the dish simmers). The heat helps to release their flavors and infuse them into the meal. There’s no point adding dried herbs towards the end - their flavors won’t have time to saturate.
Crush dried herbs between your fingers just before you add them to a dish. This also helps to release their flavors.
How to air dry herbs:
- Trim only the strongest looking branches.
- Remove any old leaves.
- Tie a bundle together of 5-6 stems.
- Hang upside down in a warm, airy room.
- Leave it for 2 weeks.
- Store your dried herbs in a jar or paper bag.
Which herbs are better fresh v dried?
A lot of it comes down to personal preference and the recipe you’re using. Some herbs are never served raw as they’re too pungent and heavy (eg. sage and rosemary). Here are some examples of herbs that are commonly used fresh and some which are commonly dried:
- Mountain Savory
Growing herbs in the Click & Grow 25
Substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs
If your dish requires fresh herbs and you only have dried – or vice versa – there’s a simple workaround:
As a general guideline, use the ratio 3:1 (3 parts fresh to 1 part dried). This also works out as:
1 tablespoon of fresh herbs is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.
So, let’s say you're converting fresh thyme to dried thyme. If the recipe asks for 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, use 1 teaspoon of dried thyme instead.
The Click & Grow Herb Saver stores fresh herbs for up to 3 weeks
When deciding between fresh v dried herbs, consider your needs for the recipe. Fresh herbs are better for adding springlike flavor to a dish. The downside? You have to use them quickly.
Dried herbs are better for storing and using later. Their flavor is more intense than fresh herbs and better suited to slow cooked recipes.
Decide what your priority is – fresh flavor or convenience – and use the herb type that will help you achieve that goal.
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