5 Uncommon Herbs You Should be Using
Words Emily Connelly
We like trying new things at OXO. Whether it’s a new way to slice garlic or a more efficient way to scrub dishes, we’re constantly observing how people take on everyday tasks. Our curiosity also includes trying new foods, recipes and techniques. Even though we’re based in New York City, we don’t limit ourselves to just local ingredients. So this month, we’re trying out some new (or less well-known) produce to see how we can prepare it better. Over the course of the next three weeks, we’ll try new fruits, vegetables and herbs – and share our results.
First, we tried new fruits.
Then, we tried new vegetables.
Known for its lemony scent and flavor (akin to citronella), lemongrass is a key ingredient in everything from tea blends to Thai soups, and can be used whole, sliced, or muddled into a paste. To prepare, simply cut off the bulb at the base and peel away any tough outside layers, then slice it into thin strips and cook until soft – it does tend to be a little stringy, so make sure you cook it thoroughly. From there, add it to stir fry, boil it in hot water for 5 minutes for tea, or add it to the pan with fish for a light, lemony flavor.
Have you been tossing the green stuff at the top of your carrots? They’re actually a completely edible herb and can be used similarly to other leafy herbs like parsley. Carrot tops are slightly bitter and earthy tasting. They’re great whipped into salsa, pesto, or our favorite, chimichurri!
While this tart spring green can be tossed with other salad greens and eaten raw, when cooked, sorrel’s flavor becomes slightly muted – perfect for adding to sauces or homemade dressing. While its flavor profile pairs nicely with fish, sorrel is also an excellent addition to soups, and is versatile enough that you can add it to dips for a nice kick of flavor. We like to mix ours into hummus and serve with pita and feta cheese.
Similar to its leafy green relatives spinach and kale, watercress is packed with so many vitamins and nutrients it was actually used to prevent scurvy. But never fear! Even if you aren’t a sailor with a vitamin C deficiency, you can still enjoy this fresh green. The flavor is often likened to that of arugula (think: fresh but zesty) — we like to sauté it with butter, ginger, and salt to create a simple but flavorful side for grilled meat or to top rice or quinoa bowl. Watercress is also a perfect complement to the rich flavors found in soft cheeses. Try snacking on cucumber, watercress and goat cheese tea sandwiches – crusts are optional. Cutting it into triangles is not.
Much like the way a bouquet of flowers brings a pop of color and pizzazz to a room, a few well-placed nasturtiums or violets can brighten and add character to a spring salad. Faintly peppery in flavor, edible flowers pair nicely with everything from a bed of greens to a rich risotto – and they look beautiful sitting on top of a decadent baked treat
Skeptical about eating flowers? Try putting a few blossoms on avocado toast, then adding a poached egg. The peppery, protein-packed addition is just as delicious as it is Instagram-worthy.
If you’re looking for flowers that are even more versatile (and filling) than nasturtiums, look no further than squash blossoms. These little blooms can be used for everything from minestrone soup to tacos and pesto, but one of their most popular uses is stuffed with cheese before baking or frying. We mix ricotta with an egg and a sprinkling of our favorite herbs (think thyme, rosemary, or even basil) for our version. Squash blossoms are often battered before roasting, like in this recipe from Bon Appetit. If giving your floral dish a bit of a fried crunch seems appealing, you can lightly bread the blossoms by placing bread crumbs into a bowl (you can use a chopper to make your own!) and beating an egg or two in another bowl, then dipping the blossoms first in the egg and then the crumbs prior to roasting. (Fair warning: much like any other flower, squash blossoms have a very short shelf life – we suggest eating them within a day or two of purchase.)
What herb varieties have you been wondering about? Let us know in the comments and we’ll cover your suggestions next!