Positive note #2: fresh herbs

by Eszter Hargittai on December 23, 2020

Yesterday, I kicked off the “Let’s end 2020 on a positive note” series, which I continue today with a very different angle (we’ll be back to other content types later this week). With Covid-19 imposing lots of restrictions on where we could go this year, many of us spent considerable time in the kitchen. This likely included some innovations. Let’s talk about fresh herbs in particular (I’ll have a separate post about more general cooking/baking finds). What is a fresh herb that you added to your cooking repertoire this year that you definitely plan on keeping long term? Or if you were already a fresh herb aficionado then feel free to mention what was not new per se, but brought continued joy.

I wasn’t big on fresh herbs in the past, my most consistent use was of rosemary sprigs as adding them to even the simplest dish of oven-roasted vegetables is already a great touch. My most exciting fresh herb addition this year was fresh thyme. I now have fresh thyme on hand all the time as it has proven to be so helpful in numerous dishes. Whether on chicken (my most common go-to meat) or veggies, it has never disappointed. I don’t even have a particular recipe to point to, it’s just been extremely helpful all around. Pictured: chicken hot dogs with apples, plumbs, sliced almonds and, of course, fresh thyme (you can spot it).

I’ll mention a failed attempt: fresh turmeric. Turmeric was the major spice addition to my cooking in 2019 so in 2020 I thought I’d go to the root directly. For me, this was not worth the trouble. First, it’s rather tedious to deal with. More importantly, it stains everything. So unless you want everything in your kitchen to look orange or are extremely careful, beware. I also find turmeric in spice jars to be quite effective so the trouble was not worth it to me.

What fresh herb did you enjoy adding to your cooking and baking this year?



Paul Bickart 12.23.20 at 6:21 pm

Basil, rosemary, oregano, coriander, mint, and chives. We have a 2-by-6-foot raised garden box, and it’s really good mostly for herbs. Others here grow tomatoes, but that’s not a good use of such a small space.


Theophylact 12.23.20 at 6:22 pm

And thyme. How could I forget thyme?


Mr Spoon 12.23.20 at 7:32 pm

Every spring I plant out as much basil as I can find room for. Basil lifts green salads, decorates pasta dishes, and then you can make pesto. There is nothing better than fresh pesto. It even repels Nazgul. I’m planning this summer to see if basil can sub for mint in a mohito-like tall cold drink.


Zora 12.23.20 at 11:50 pm

My small urban garden is too shady to grow herbs. I’ve tried. I have to buy herbs in bunches at the supermarket. I use a little bit and put the rest in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top. In theory these will last in the refrigerator for a week or more. What usually happens is that I forget about the remnant and have to throw out the wilted, decaying herbs a few weeks later.

Dried herbs for me, alas.


kingless 12.24.20 at 2:02 am

Mint, oregano, rosemary, and lemon thyme. The rosemary came with the house. The others seem to be invincible in the garden. We grow basil in pots every summer.


J-D 12.24.20 at 8:28 am

There is nothing better than fresh pesto. It even repels Nazgul.

Please tell this story.


Eszter Hargittai 12.24.20 at 2:31 pm

I wasn’t aware of lemon thyme, thanks for the heads up. It sounds like several of you have the ability to grow your own fresh herbs, which sounds lovely. (I’ve briefly looked at options for indoor cultivation, but decided it would require too much space for an urban European apartment.)


ffrancis 12.24.20 at 4:59 pm

I’m fortunate in having a large garden to play in; this season I grew lovage for the first time (as well as the usual crops of basil, thai basil, lemon basil, summer savory, parsley, mint, tarragon, sage, cilantro, dill and lemon balm. We use a lot of herbs!)


Philip 12.24.20 at 5:54 pm

I love growing herbs. They don’t have to take up much space, if you have a windowsill with sunlight or somewhere to hang pots outside you can get supermarket plants and keep them alive. I got an allotment just before lockdown and inherited lovage and horseradish on it. The lovage is good and a cross between celery and parsley and I haven’t tried the horseradish yet.

I always grow rosemary, sage, bay, thyme, mint, oregano, and parsley. I like dill but it is a bit tricky to grow, needing lots of water, and I only use it for a few things. Also tarragon, I like it’s aniseed flavour with some things but it has never thrived for me.


Theophylact 12.24.20 at 11:08 pm

We grow sage because it looks great, but we have little use for it. We have a small bay in a pot inside, but generally we used dried bay leaves anyway. We prefer perennials, but the basil is necessary and dill is convenient because supermarket often don’t have decent dill in stock. Parsley is nice to have, but for the quantities we use there often isn’t enough room in our garden box for that to be practical, and it tends to get shaded by the taller and larger herbs.


Luis Luna 12.25.20 at 4:06 pm

This year rediscovered mixing basil and mint. 25 years ago living in Zürich the Migros Saisonküche had a recipe for grilled aubergine combining them. Might prepare it again but not today. My Hungarian wife stuffed me with diós bejgli.


Neville Morley 12.26.20 at 8:44 am

Nothing new; lots of basil, Thai basil, coriander, parsley, rosemary, thyme.

With fresh turmeric: agreed that it’s a waste of time for cooking, but if you steep grated turmeric root in gin or vodka for ten minutes, it produces a gloriously aromatic yellow spirit, excellent with tonic water.


KT2 12.26.20 at 8:19 pm

Phillip. We love horseradish.
The root when minced – don’t grate – releases 2 enzymes which when they come into contact, generate the heat. So after putting through mincer – eyes crying worse than onions – the length of time before addition of vinegar to cease enzymatic reaction provides heat level. Shorter for mild – we add at 4 minutes for a wasabi like olfactory assult.

With smoked trout -mix with a little mayo. Yum! Ymmv.

Marcus Aurelius – Galem or Pliny? – always had sage, parsley & horseradish. It seems a poltice of horseradish also faded freckles.

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