11 Herbs Every Cook Should Use
Oregano grows wild in the mountains of Italy and Greece; its Greek name means "joy of the mountain." The Greeks love oregano sprinkled on salads, while the Italians shower it on pizza and slip it into tomato sauces. Add chopped oregano to vinaigrette, or use it in poultry, game, or seafood dishes when you want to take them in a Greek or Italian direction. Oregano and marjoram are so similar in looks and flavor that they are often confused. Oregano, however, has a more potent taste and aroma; marjoram is sweeter and more delicate.
Try this recipe:
Two-Cheese Oregano Bread
Thyme comes in dozens of varieties; however, most cooks use French thyme. Undoubtedly thyme is one of the most important herbs of the European kitchen. What would a bouquet garni be without it? This congenial herb pairs well with many other herbs—especially rosemary, parsley, sage, savory, and oregano. Its earthiness is welcome with pork, lamb, duck, or goose, and it's much beloved in Cajun and Creole cooking. It's also the primary component of Caribbean jerk seasonings. Because the leaves are so small, they often don't require chopping.
• Store herbs bouquet-style when in bunches: Place, stems down, in a jar with water covering 1 inch of the stem ends, enclose in a large zip-top plastic bag, and change the water every other day. Most herbs will keep for up to a week this way.
• Many supermarkets carry herb plants in their produce sections. Snip off as much as you need, and the plant will last for weeks or even months.
• To revive limp herbs, trim 1/2 inch off the stems, and place in ice water for a couple of hours.
• Wash herbs just before using; pat dry with a paper towel.
• In most cases, heat kills the flavor of fresh herbs, so they're best when added to a dish at the end.
Learn more about herbs:
All About Herbs
How to use fresh herbs to create lively dishes.
Learn how to keep your fresh herbs fresh.
Herb Gardening 101
A kitchen-herb garden is perfect for a greenhorn because it doesn't need a lot of attention. Here's the insider's guide to getting started.