Food without salt is not food. But, what happens when for some reason we have to reduce the salt intake, but we don’t want to deprive our food and our lives of…taste? Then, we resort to herbs! Fresh or dried, herbs and spices have the power to add flavor and aromas to our food, to cover (partly) the salt’s absence or, simply, to help us use less salt in our recipe.
As I mentioned above, we can use them either fresh or dried (if we’re talking about herbs), individually or by mixing them together and making several combinations. You can add them to foods, use them in your desserts (and reduce the sugar!) or in your drinks. Main requirement? To be able to preserve their flavors and aromas completely.
Fresh herbs. How do we preserve them?
It’s quite simple: We preserve them into their pots, at a bright spot in our kitchen (or even better outside of it -e.g. at our balcony- since they may not last a lot inside). We treat them just like we would with any other plant while, if we want, we can even freeze them and have them at our disposal any time of the year. How do we freeze them? Wash them, dry them, finely chop them, and then divide them into ice cubes along with a little water. In fact, if you want, you can create several mixes of herbs and not put each one on its own. Preserve them like that for at least 6 months. Alternatively, you can transfer them -after they are frozen- into food bags which you will also preserve in the freezer.
Did you buy fresh herbs and you want to prolong their lifetime? Then, add them into a container with water covering their stems, and preserve them (along with the container) in the refrigerator. In fact, if you regularly change the water, you will manage to preserve their freshness not only for days, but even for weeks!
Spices: Preservation tips
How can you “protect” the aromas and the flavors of your spices for as long as possible? The secret is in preserving them properly. So…
- Take your spices out of their packets and store them in well-sealed glass containers.
- A kitchen cabinet, without humidity, is the perfect spot for spices. Away from light, heat, but also air – elements that can be fatal for their special properties.
- During summer, if you want, you can use your refrigerator too. There, you could preserve a ground red pepper, sweet or spicy paprika, a little chili powder…
- Make sure that they are away from the stove since the steam is a threat to them.
- Lastly, do not forget that it is good to preserve your spices whole and powder them just before you add them to the food. In that way, they’ll be able to preserve their flavor and aroma a lot better.
How long do they last?
Whole spices, if stored properly, can preserve their properties even for two whole years! However, the powders and the dried herbs have a shorter lifespan, lasting for about a year. And while storing them properly is the main factor for preserving them as long as possible, it is not the only one. There is one more thing that you should be careful of…and this is none other than choosing them correctly!
- So, make sure that the spices you choose have an intense aroma and a bright color.
- Avoid the… wilted dried herbs. Yes, this sounds silly but good dried herbs have a green color and they do not look wilted at all!
- Lastly, if any red spices are getting a more brownish color, that means they’ve started to go bad so make sure to not choose them.
And now, we get to…the point! We all know that we can use them in our foods, but which are the most…successful combinations?
- For your meats, you can use pepper, but also onion or garlic. From that point on, the lamb can get a special flavor from the rosemary, thyme, or curry, while the pork suits a lot with oregano (especially when you cook it with lemon), but also with the thyme, rosemary, and parsley. When cooking beef, it is worth trying -among others- bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and ginger, while the chicken goes well with paprika, ginger, sage, rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
- For your fish, you can add a little curry, marjoram, or mustard powder. But, you can also try it with a little oregano, fennel, thyme, and rosemary.
- Vegetables are, also, a category that can be benefited by adding herbs and spices. In a Greek salad (horiatiki), you can add fresh (or dried) oregano and thyme, while in a green salad, you could use dill, mint, or parsley. A boiled salad could be served with all sorts of herbs, like dill, basil, mint, thyme, coriander, parsley, and oregano. Lastly, regarding potatoes, you could experiment with bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and coriander, but also with a little paprika (and -of course- with the classic pepper).
- Pasta and rice? These can be also combined with your favorite spices. Saffron and curry are some of the most common ones; then, there is sage which, along with a little butter, can work miracles for your pasta.
- Stews, on the other hand, go well with mint, parsley, and fennel, while legumes with bay leaf, parsley, and fresh oregano.
- Lastly, for your pies, you can use a lot of herbs. Some examples? Dill, oregano, chervil, coriander, Mediterranean hartwort, thyme, fennel, and parsley.
All you have to do is experiment and discover your own favorite combinations. The options are truly countless. A look at the recipes of this website will fill you with ideas.