As tasty as cilantro, basil, and parsley are, the herb world has way more to offer than the three green darlings that make our fresh salsas, caprese salads, and pizzas taste so much better. Three we love cooking with that often get passed by for those mainstays are tarragon, dill (it’s good for way more than potato salad!), and lemon balm. Learn how to use them with these tips.
Tarragon While the French adore tarragon, we Americans haven’t fallen quite as hard for it—not yet at least. Tarragon’s thin, pointy leaves have an anise flavor that plays well with all kinds of dishes, especially French ones. Try introducing tarragon to your kitchen with herb omelets, hollandaise on eggs Benedict, or white wine vinaigrettes. Once you’re in the know, you’ll find yourself whisking your new favorite herb into scrambled eggs, mincing leaves into white bean soups, or finishing roasted chicken with tarragon butter. You can even infuse vinegar with a couple of sprigs. Keep in mind that tarragon’s flavor can vary from quite strong to mild, depending on growing conditions and age. Always taste a leaf from your bunch before you start cooking to adjust how much you want to use. (Image: Susan Nye – Around the Table)
Dill Along with parsley and cilantro, dill belongs to the carrot family, but its lacey look sets it apart from the flat leaves of its cousins. Though dill’s flavor isn’t exactly subtle, its taste is mellow enough that you can use the herb in great quantities without overwhelming your dish and use it as a garnish on just about anything. We often see the needle-like leaves on platters of smoked salmon, but dill’s bright, clean flavor enhances any fish, whether it’s cured, smoked, or fresh. Likewise, fresh cheeses and yogurt benefit from dill’s flowery flavor, as do eggs. Feel like a vegetable dish is lacking? Add dill. It’s the perfect match for fennel, celery, and carrots. Lesser known than the leaf, dill seeds preserve the fresh herb’s same bright flavor and can be ground up and added to dishes. (Image: Simply Smoothie)
Lemon Balm Though its leaves look like mint, this herb tastes like lemon. Like many of the more delicate herbs, lemon balm loses much of its flavor during cooking, so you want to add chopped or torn leaves only when finishing a dish. Lemon balm is a great match for fish and chicken dishes, but you don’t have to limit yourself to savory foods. Its citrus flavor makes lemon balm a nice complement to stone fruits and berries and many desserts, like panna cotta or lemon curd. You can also use lemon balm to brew an herbal tea. Grab a handful per cup, then crumple them slightly with your fingers to release the oils. Steep in hot, but not boiling, water for about 10 minutes, then drink immediately or cool and serve over ice. (Image: Body Enlightenment)