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Herbs worth buying dried?

  • r

The food authorities are always preaching (with good reason) about using fresh, not dried herbs.

It IS, of course, useful to have spices on hand when you don't have a chance to get them fresh. What basic herbs are fine dried? How, for example, does dried chives, ginger, dill, sage and tarragon hold up?

Just waiting to place my next Penzeys order :)

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  1. I hope there are plenty of responses to this. The grocery chain where I shop now has the fresh herbs at $2.49 each! I just can't do that.

    4 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I agree, some of the fresh herbs last well, ie rosemary is very hearty. However a lot of the little packages go quickly and the recipe doesn't call but for a small portion of the little container.
      We're doing a fun little experiment at the moment. I bought seeds and a 72 seed pod at Home Depot. Within a week, some of the herbs have sprouted. We planted basil, chives and a number of others. At some point, they will need to be moved in to larger containers.
      As far as the fresh herbs go, I place a paper towel in with the herbs and it seems to help by absorbing moisture.

      1. re: c oliver

        You can freeze or dry the fresh herbs before they go bad.
        Put a single layer of leafy herbs between 2 paper towels and microwave in 10 second increments until dry. Crumble and use as dried herbs, but with a stronger and fresher flavour.

        1. re: c oliver

          I agree when I buy herbs, I buy dry most of the time because I'm on food stamps and the herbs I buy have to be dried so I can use them more then once. Cilantro, Mint and Chives are the only herbs I buy or get fresh on regular basis.

          1. re: YAYME

            Mint and chives are two of the expensives ones that I was referring to two years ago.

        2. Dried Tarragon and Rosemary do pretty will I think, unlike dried Cilantro which is a total waste of Thyme.
          Dried Ginger is a different animal to fresh, and has it's own uses which fresh cannot fulfill.

          Other views??

          5 Replies
          1. re: Robin Joy

            I'd put dried tarragon in the same group as dried basil: it's better than nothing, but you are really missing a lot compared to the fresh stuff.

            Laurel, thyme and rosemary to very well dried, as does oregano. But more to the point: dried herbs are fine in a pinch, but aside from these few that work well dried, why not use frozen herbs?

            1. re: tmso

              I definitely agree with the preference for fresh herbs, with one caveat - sometimes the dried product is very different from the fresh one, and what you need is the dried. Robin mentioned this regarding dried ginger, and I'd put dried sage in the same camp.

              1. re: tmso

                I'd have to be way more organized than I am to freeze my leftover fresh herbs.

                I agree: dried chives (along with basil, cilantro and parsley) are worthless; dried tarragon is better than nothing. Oregano (including marjoram), rosemary, sage, thyme are all okay dried. Dill is surprisingly good dried, although it deteriorates pretty quickly in the cupboard, so replace it frequently.

                As people have said, dried ginger is a completely different spice than fresh, and they can't be used interchangably. Fresh ginger keeps for quite a while, especially in the crisper, and can also be frozen.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  As for freezing leftover fresh herbs, yeah, you have to be organized, and I usually fail. The exception is if I buy an herb for a specific dish and don't use it all. Sometimes I convince myself that I'll use it in the comming week, but sometimes I have the sense to freeze it. But for frozen herbs, I meant the kind you buy pre-chopped and frozen.

                  Oh, and I'd have to add lime leaves to the list of herbs that dry gracefully.

                  1. re: tmso

                    Some herbs will preserve well, for a few weeks in the fridge, if layered in coarse salt or kosher salt.
                    Sage, thyme, tarragon, curly parsley, savory, and others with firm leaves.
                    Just pat dry, and make layers of herb leaves and salt in a ziploc or plastic container, and refrigerate.
                    They will need rinsing before use, and some herbs which bruise easily, like basil, won't work with this method.
                    But once again, it shows how salt is a good preservative.

            2. Dried herbs are, of course, convenient; I use them in soups, stews, baked goods, etc. But I prefer to use fresh herbs for salads, omelets, and other foods that lend themselves to their use. I grow some of my own fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, etc.)
              and that helps. When I need a small amount of fresh herbs and the market has ten times the amount I need in one "fresh" packet it's hard for me to bite the bullet and purchase that much when most of it is likely to go to waste (I don't want to dry it, freeze it, or otherwise try to store it - that's why I have dried herbs on the shelf) but I admit to doing that occasionally.

              1. I have a Mediterranean supermart in my area (Highland Farms) with dried stalks of sage and origano from Greece, wrapped in cellophane. These bunches, just $1.50, get me through the winter!

                1. Hello my name is Phoo-D and I'm addicted to Penzey's.

                  Well, okay not totally, but if you saw my spice cabinet you may disagree! I have a very hard time getting anything but the basic fresh herbs where I live and end up growing most of my own in the summer. This time of year, I find that only fresh basil, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary make it into my basket. Everything else can work with dried herbs and spices (provided they are a good quality and fresh like Penzey's). I agree with Robin that the dried can serve different purposes than fresh. Also, if you live near a Trader Joe's they usually carry small frozen cubes of freshly frozen spices that are wonderful in cooked dishes.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Phoo_d

                    Dried herbs that are pretty acceptable: I agree that tarragon, sage and rosemary are OK. Basil -- dried basil is useful, it's just not the same as fresh basil, but it's fine in applications where it will be cooked (and not raw). I find dried chives pretty pointless. Dried dill is OK, not great. I too love Penzey's!

                    1. re: Lucymax

                      I think tarragon and oregano are Ok dried. Basil, too, but different than fresh.

                      I disagree with the others about rosemary and sage -- I think fresh are much better.

                      As for dried chives, you may as well just use confetti.

                      1. re: pemma

                        Fresh rosemary is better, but if you killed the rosemary holiday tree (accidentally), the freshly dried fronds are amazing!

                        1. re: Caralien

                          And when you forget to cut the thyme at the end of the season and it dries on the stem, it is also quite nice.

                  2. I am giving up my snobbery for dried herbs. Where I live, all the fresh ones are flown in from somewhere else and cost a lot. I am trying to eat 'local' which means herbs are only in season in the summer. I do really like frozen. So the answer would be to buy in season, and freeze for the winter. It should get one through the most of it. So I am now using more dried herbs and adjusting my attitude.

                    1. Dried hebs that I like (blah blah caveat about fresh being better) include: thyme, oregano (Mexican and Greek) rosemary, rubbed sage, bay leaves. I can't think of anything else that is a leafy, green thing to start with that I like dried.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cocktailhour

                        I second your list. I think it is the oilier herbs that dry well and are often more successful than fresh for alot of dishes. Make sure you crumble them in your hand to release oils as you add to the dish.

                        1. re: torty

                          some middle-eastern recipes call for dried mint. very different than the fresh, but intriguing.

                      2. I can't live without Penzey's dried thyme, Mexican oregano, Greek oregano, and dill. Even though I sometimes use fresh versions of these herbs, I feel that many recipes were developed to use dried herbs rather than fresh, and these get me through the winter. Here in northern California I can usually keep parsley and sage alive in pots on my deck through the winter (although it can't be harvested very aggressively). My chives, tarragon and mint usually freeze back to the ground but come back in the spring. Rosemary is easy to keep alive, and is so vigorous that I can harvest it all year long. Thyme stays alive, but isn't as flavorful in the winter, IMO. I buy cilantro year round because it aggravates me with bolting just when I want a lot. Basil, of course, is only a summertime treat from the garden, and along with Tarragon is the only herb I will bother to freeze for winter use. I find store bought fresh herbs (except cilantro) expensive and often low quality (quickly turn to slime, little flavor) so I never buy them. If the recipe calls for something out of season I either wait for the season or substitute something that is available (I often put Rosemary in winter dishes that call for basil, for example), or use Penzey's dried.

                        1. Here are my lists.

                          Good (almost as good as fresh, especially if you dry your own):

                          Marginal (use if fresh is not available):
                          Ginger (not an herb, but you did ask)

                          Waste of time:

                          1. I often use dried minced onion; it has a totally different flavor 'cause it's toasted.

                            1. mexican oregano, italian oregano, bay leaf

                              1. Most of the comm on herbs fall into two groups; the shrubby perennials (rosemary, sage, thyme, oreganos and marjoram)and the annuals, bienniels and herbaceous perennials (which have permanent roots but make new growth each year, like tarragon). It's mostly the first group that dries well; they are mostly dry land plants with little moisture to begin with and the flavor coming mostly from relatively stable oils. Most of the rest (parsley, basil et al.) you might as well use grass clippings.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: oldunc

                                  i do not see the point of buying dried basil either; i would not bother to use much less buy dried basil and wonder why it sells

                                  1. re: crowmuncher

                                    Because some of us are eternally optimistic -

                                    I always keep it in my kitchen; so dumb, because I never use it.

                                2. Dried cilantro and parsley are basically useless, and will only add colour to your dish, no flavour. If I can't get them fresh, I don't use them. Dried mint is okay for making tea, but not for cooking or mojitos. For chives, I wouldn't use dried, but would substitute finely chopped green onions if needed. Dried tarragon is pretty tasteless, too.

                                  If a recipe calls for an herb as an integral part - think tabbouleh, or cilantro-mint chutney, or pesto, only fresh will work.

                                  Dried ginger is a strong but very different taste. I use dried in baking (ginger cookies, for example). I would substitute powder for a curry paste, but not in a stir fry.

                                  Dried rosemary and sage are excellent, and dried bay leaves are very good. I find that thyme, oregano and dill work very well if you don't keep them too long (my dried dill keeps going mouldy). Dried basil is okay for something like tomato sauce, but not for something like a Thai curry.

                                  For spices, rather than herbs, using whole spices and grinding them yourself can make a big difference in flavour, particularly if you aren't replacing them frequently, and toasting a bit before grinding also intensifies the flavour.

                                  Growing your own herbs can work well for the ones that don't taste good when dried. Pesto base freezes well (add the cheese after thawing), and you can freeze things like cilantro, parsely and mint n a bit of water. The will go all mushy in texture and therefore don't work well in salads, but work in things like curry pastes.

                                  When I'm using an herb I can't get fresh, and is past it's prime, I increase the amount I'm using in the dish to compensate.