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A FRESH Point of View: Five Herbs We Love

There’s a reason chefs like to cook with fresh herbs rather than dried ones, as often as they can. Fresh herbs impart a bright, crisp, intense flavor and aroma that dried spices, even of the best quality, just don’t have.

At FRESH, we’re committed to carrying garden-fresh herbs – including some that you may not have seen in many local markets. Here are some of my current favorites:

Epazote: Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy calls this the most Mexican of herbs. It has a strong, almost bitter flavor and is used to flavor beans (especially black beans), soups, quesadillas, enchiladas and other Mexican dishes.

Lemon thyme: This herb looks much like regular English thyme, but rub the small leaves gently between your fingers; it definitely smells like a lemon. The flavor, too, is lemony, with a hint of thyme, so you can use it whenever you’d like an intense lemon flavor. Especially good in chicken dishes.

Lemongrass: Popular in Thai and Vietnamese dishes, this fragrant herb has a flavor that recalls lemon peel. Crush or chop the long stalks and add them to curries and soups, especially seafood soup like the Thai classic, tom yum, with shrimp and coconut milk.

Sorrel: Somewhat sour, acidic, even bitter, a little fresh sorrel adds a nice punch to salads. Cooked, its taste resembles greens, and it can be added to soups or stews.

Opal basil: A cousin of ordinary basil, but with deep purple leaves, this has a slightly sharper, more savory taste. It can be used in many of the same dishes that you’d use basil in, including pesto; consider using it to muddle up a round of trendy basil mojitos.