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Dried Herbs or Fresh: What’s the Difference, Really?

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Herbs have be known and used throughout history to help fight against ailments and disease. Various studies have shown their potential to help protect against chronic diseases – including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease – and provide incredible amounts of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and polyphenols, among a plethora of other health boosting properties.

Kate Geagan, MS, RD, illustrates this point saying, “using herbs and spices expands your palette without extra calories and may decrease the amount of salt, fat, and sugar you use without sacrificing flavor.”

So it’s no secret herbs are a great and simple way to add more nutrition to your meals and diet, but is there a significant difference in using fresh as opposed to dried?

Here we take a look at the pros and cons of each, informing you of everything you need to know before tackling your next herb addition!

Flavor

When herbs are dried they are susceptible to loss of the volatile oils largely responsible for their flavor, aroma, and spice. To ensure optimal flavor retention, dry herbs work particularly well when added during cooking. For example, adding dried oregano before the stock when making a soup or stew, or dried rosemary dusted over vegetables before roasting.

Alternatively, for a garnish or decoration, you may be best to stick with the fresh varieties as they retain the full flavor, color, and texture that the dry versions lack. Green herbs especially will suffer from some loss of nutrients and flavour compounds in the drying process, so are ideal fresh. Think torn basil leaves over pasta, or chopped coriander leaves over a Thai salad. (For inspiration, take a look at our guide on 5 Quick Ways to Spice Up Your Recipes Using Coriander.)

Price

Typically, bulk bought dried herbs will be cheaper than the store bought fresh variety – and for the amount of dried you actually need to cook with – are great value for money.

On the other hand, if you are after the fresh produce, growing your own herbs is a great way to save money and still reap a generous yield. Small, portable pots are ideal to grow in as they can be moved inside during the cooler months to provide a year round harvest.

Cooking Ratios

As a general rule, dried herbs are more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, therefore, requiring less when cooking. The 1:3 ratio is largely applicable for dry to fresh, so one tablespoon dried herb equates to roughly three tablespoons of the fresh produce. Play it safe if you are unsure, remember you can always add more, but you can’t necessarily take away!

Storage

Dried herbs should ideally be kept in air-tight jars or containers away from light, and preferably in a dry, cool place. Fresh herbs on the other hand, should be stored in the fridge, and it can be helpful to wrap in paper towel and bag to prevent dampness and mold.

Keep an eye on how long you keep either form of herbs. Dried can lose their taste and potency before long, and fresh can quickly wilt and go bad. A great way to make your fresh herbs last longer is to portion and freeze them for later use. Most herbs will freeze perfectly fine, whether in a frozen meal itself, or separately.

Either Way, You Win! 

At the end of the day it is a completely personal choice, and may vary depending on availability, convenience, and the occasion, among a range of other influencing factors. You may even wish to use both when cooking, and that can be a perfect way to get the best of both worlds.

What do you think? Are you partial to one over the other? Any tips or tricks we need to know? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Lead image source: Pixabay

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