Fresh Herbs vs Dried Herbs - By Kate Wall

Fresh Herbs vs Dried Herbs

Dried herbs allow us to have many different flavours on hand as we cook. They are very convenient, keep well and are low cost. They have the advantage of giving us access to herbs which are not in season or do not grow in our local climate. But are they the best option when it comes to flavouring meals?  Dried herbs do keep well but they lose their flavour over time so certainly should be refreshed every six months or so.

One of the greatest herb scandals to erupt recently is that some brands of supermarket herbs are not what they claim to be. The mass production of dried herbs has led to some less scrupulous companies cutting corners and using inferior quality herbs or substituting the herbs for other dried leaves which are simply not what the packet says it is. The fact that this has gone on undetected for so long indicates that we have fairly low expectations from the flavour of our supermarket dried herbs to begin with.

Quality dried herbs can be very potent with strong flavours. For this reason they are usually used in small amounts. A little can go a long way. If used too sparingly the subtle richness of flavours they impart will be lost or overwhelmed in a dish.

Fresh herbs in bunches or as living plants are readily available in greengrocers or the supermarkets and provide an option to use fresh herbs instead of dried. The flavours are usually mild and the range of herbs available this way is small. The fresh herbs sold by the bunch have a very short shelf life and need to be used within a couple of days. Potted herbs which are sold in greengrocers are usually fairly weak plants which do not always transplant into the garden well, so are considered a way of keeping a fresh bunch of herbs viable for longer rather than a quality garden plant. While they may not be intended as a long term living plant, they are a great way to keep a bunch of herbs fresher for longer.

Growing your own herbs is the best way to have access to a wide range of different herbs and be sure that you have good quality and good flavours available for cooking.

Many herbs are relatively easy to grow even for inexperienced gardeners, and require relatively little space in the garden. Herbs can be grown in pots or green walls making them an easy garden option for almost any well lit space.

Of course by growing your own herbs you will have fresh flavours on hand as you require them for the kitchen. In addition you can grow a far greater range of flavours than is readily available as either fresh or dried herbs.

Oregano is the dried herb which was found to have the greatest degree of substitution with other leaves in the supermarket dried herb packets. Even good quality dried oregano only comes in one basic variety and it usually has a fairly mild flavour. By growing your own oregano you can be assured of getting the full rich flavour this herb has to offer. By growing a variety of the oreganos in the Elite Herbs™ range, you can have a variety of predictable flavours from a very mild oregano (OzViva™ Oregano) through to a very strong oregano (Simply Zesty™ Oregano) suitable for a wide range of dishes.

Basil is a herb which tends to lose its flavour very quickly as a dried herb. A rich basil flavour can only be effectively achieved with fresh herbs. Basil is widely used in salads and bruschetta featuring fresh tomatoes. Only a very high quality dried basil will come close to imparting the rich flavours of fresh basil in these dishes. Home grown basil is easy to grow and a delight to use. The basils featured in the Elite Herbs™ range give very predictable flavours and so are ideal for ensuring wonderful fresh basil flavours are on hand for your meals. Delight™ Basil is as the name describes – a delightful basil for use in salads and bruschetta with flavours that cannot be replicated in dried herbs. This one is ideally used fresh. Profusion™ Basil is a full flavoured Greek basil which is great fresh but can also be dried when grown in abundance.

By growing large amounts of fresh herbs when they are in season, you can harvest excess and dry it yourself for use later. Many herbs, including basil, also freeze well.

Home grown herbs can be dried on drying racks in the sun, in a food dehydrator or in the oven on very low temperatures. By starting with good quality full flavoured herbs you are assured of good quality dried herbs. Herbs need to be dried gently to ensure that the flavours are not damaged. Care also needs to be taken that the herbs are fully dried before storing in air tight containers. The herbs are fully dried if they crumple easily when crushed between your fingers.

Sassy™ Thyme is the best thyme for drying your own. It is a strong full flavoured thyme, which will ensure your dried herb retains maximum flavour. Simply Zesty™ is the strongest flavoured of the oregano in the Elite Herbs™ range making it also ideal for creating your own dried herbs. You can make your own dried herbs with the more medium and milder flavoured herbs in the range if you prefer those flavours. The richer the flavour of the fresh herb, the richer will be the flavour of your dried herb. As dried herbs lose their flavour over time, a stronger flavoured herb will give a better flavour as a dried herb for longer.

Click here for more information on the Elite Herbs™ range