Wondering what to do with all those herbs?

fresh herbs
CC BY 2.0 Jennifer C.

Some ideas for coping with the bountiful surplus that comes at this time of year

Herb season is in full swing. So many bunches of cilantro, parsley, dill, thyme, sage, and basil come into the house with each week’s CSA share that I struggle to get through them all before the next batch arrives. Herbs are tricky because they’re commonly thought of as a seasoning or garnish, rarely as a key ingredient, which makes it difficult to use them up before they go bad. Here are some ideas for dealing with that delectable surplus.

Make salad and salad dressing.

Eat those herbs straight up. They’re nutritious and delicious and add variety to a lettuce salad. Wash and dry alongside the lettuce. If you have a load of parsley, make tabbouleh, which can take upwards of two cups chopped in some recipes I’ve seen.

Try Ottolenghi’s famous herb salad, which consists of large quantities of cilantro, parsley, dill, tarragon, basil, and arugula tossed together with fried almonds, lemon, and oil. Ottolenghi describes it as “one of the most gratifying dishes you can possibly make.”

When making salad dressing, make it a habit to add a handful of finely chopped herbs. Shake into a vinaigrette or blend into creamy dressing. It’s wonderful any way.

Infuse oil.

Melissa has written about infusing vinegar with herbs, but did you know you can do the same with olive oil? Choose a light-flavored oil, not extra-virgin olive oil, which has a strong taste. Simmer the oil over low heat with fresh herbs, then strain and cool.

Make sauce.

Pesto is the first one that comes to mind, but there are countless other options. I’m obsessed with parsley-packed, garlicky charmoula, which I put on everything from eggs to rice, and chimichurri. Swirl some chopped herbs into melted butter with a dash of lemon juice and eat over just about anything. Whisk up a dill sauce (Greek yogurt, lemon juice, chopped shallot, and lots of fresh dill) for dipping breaded fish or veggies. Grill eggplant and drizzle with lemon-mint sauce (olive oil, parsley, mint, and lemon juice).

Add to fritters.

Grate up some veggies like zucchini, cauliflower or carrots and add a handful of herbs to the mix. Fry, then garnish with yet more herbs. Serve with a yogurt-herb dipping sauce.

Pour a drink.

Use a bunch of basil to infuse a simmering pot of sugar syrup (1:1 sugar-water ratio). Strain, chill, and mix with lemon juice and vodka. Serve over ice. (Recipe from Bonnie Stern.) Check out The Kitchn’s roundup of 20 cocktails using fresh herbs. You’ll be inspired to start mixing in no time!

Make a savory tart or focaccia.

Savory tarts are delicious but rich. Bon Appétit explains how a generous herb garnish can “reign in the richness” when scatted on top. Wait till the tart is cool so herbs don’t wilt. Another idea is to top a homemade focaccia dough with herbs. Ottolenghi recommends a parsley-kalamata olive oil mixture with olive oil and garlic. Pesto of any kind works well, too.

And, of course, if you don't get around to using the herbs while fresh, you can always dry or freeze them for use later. Learn more about those techniques here.

Tags: Cooking | Fruits & Vegetables | Waste

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