Herbs

Herbs
Herbs from around the world
angelica, archangel, ground ash, masterwort
angelica
Angelica is prized for its crunchy stems, which are often candied and used to decorate baked goods. You can also use the leaves and stems to add a celery flavor to liqueurs, sauces, and vegetable side dishes.
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anise basil, bai horapha, húng qu?, licorice basil, Thai basil
anise basil
This is used in Southeast Asia.
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avocado leaves, hoja de aguacate
avocado leaves
Mexican cooks use these to impart an anise-like aroma to foods. They're often used as wrappers, or crumbled into stews. Toast the leaves before using.
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bai-toey, bai toey, bai touy
bai-toey
This name is also used for screwpine leaves. Bai-toey leaves are about four inches in diameter, and smell a bit like a dentist's office. Look for them in Southeast Asian markets.
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baobab leaves
baobab leaves
African cooks use leaves from the massive baobab tree to thicken their stews. Like okra, the leaves give the dish a slimy texture that's characteristic of West African stews.
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basil, great basil, sweet basil
basil
Basil is widely used in Mediterranean countries, where it flavors everything from pasta sauces to pesto, and in Southeast Asia, where it's often stir-fried with other ingredients. There are numerous varieties, ranging from the more pungent Asian basils to the sweeter and milder European varieties. Use dried basil only in a pinch--it's not nearly as flavorful as fresh.
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bay leaf, bay laurel leaf, laurel leaf, sweet bay laurel leaf, Turkish bay
bay leaf
Bay leaves are a staple of Mediterranean cuisines, lending a woodsy flavor to sauces, stews, and grilled meats. It's best to add whole leaves, then remove them before serving the dish. The Turkish bay leaf is smaller and less potent than the California bay leaf, but more highly prized due to the complexity of its flavor. Dried leaves are a good substitute for fresh.
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betel leaf, pupulu
betel leaf
The Vietnamese wrap beef in these leaves, while others chew them like gum.
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boldo leaves
boldo leaves
These small leaves have a strong woodsy aroma. They're hard to find, but Hispanic markets sometimes carry dried leaves in cellophane bags.
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borage, starflower
borage
Borage is best known for its attractive blue flowers, but Europeans sometimes use the leaves as an herb in salads and soups. Borage has a mild flavor that's been likened to that of cucumbers. The leaves are covered with prickly, throat-catching hairs, so it's best to either blanch them or chop them finely before serving them.
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California bay leaf
California bay leaf
The more potent California bay leaf is highly prized due to the complexity of its flavor.
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chervil, French parsley, garden chervil
chervil
This feathery green herb tastes like a subtle blend of parsley and anise. It's far more plentiful in Europe than in America. Avoid the dried version--it has very little flavor.
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chile leaf, chili leaf, chilli leaf, la ot, rau ot
chile leaf
This herb isn't nearly as hot as the chile that comes from the same plant. It's sometimes used as a cooking green in Southeast Asia.
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Chinese chives, Chinese leek, garlic chives, gow choy, ku chai, Oriental garlic
Chinese chives
Unlike regular chives, these have flat leaves and a distinct garlicky flavor.
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chives
chives
These slender, hollow shoots have a mild onion flavor. Many cooks use scissors to cut fresh chives, sprinkling them like confetti on potatoes, eggs, and salads. Always use fresh chives--they lose much of their flavor when they're frozen or freeze-dried.
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cicely, myrrh, Spanish chervil, sweet chervil, sweet cicely
cicely
This fern-like herb has a strong anise flavor. It's not well known in the United States, but it's popular in Scandinavia, where it's often used to flavor desserts.
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cilantro, Chinese parsley, coriander green, coriander leaf, culantrillo
cilantro
Cilantro leaves are used throughout the world as a fragrant herb. Hispanic cooks use it in salsas, Asians in stir-fries, and Indians in curries. The seeds (called coriander seeds), stems, and roots of the plant are also used. Cilantro doesn't cook very well, so always add it to hot dishes at the last minute. Don't confuse cilantro with Italian parsley, which looks just like it but isn't nearly as fragrant
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culantro, sawleaf herb, culentro, false coriander, long coriander
culantro
This herb is popular throughout the Caribbean. It's similar to cilantro, but more bitter.
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curly parsley, curly-leaf parsley
curly parsley
This has less flavor than Italian parsley, but it makes a terrific garnish. Don't bother buying dried parsley--it has very little flavor.
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curry leaf, kari patta, meetha neem, sweet neem
curry leaf
These look like small bay leaves and smell like limes. Dried leaves are easier to find than fresh, but they aren't very good.
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dill leaf, dill weed, dillweed
dill leaf
You can find soft, feathery sprigs of dill leaves in markets throughout the year. Chopped dill is often paired with fish, cucumbers, potatoes, or it's added to dips, salad dressings, or cream sauces. Dill loses flavor when it's heated, so always add it to cooked dishes at the last minute. Avoid dried dill; it has very little flavor. And don't confuse dill leaves with dill seeds--though they come from the same plant, they're not good substitutes for one another.
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epazote, goosefoot, Jerusalem oak, Jesuit's tea, lamb's quarters, Mexican tea
epazote
This strongly-flavored herb is commonly used in Mexican bean dishes, partly because it's supposed to reduce flatulence. Fresh epazote has dark green leaves with serrated edges. If you can't find it, the dried version is an acceptable substitute.
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fenugreek leaves, holba, methi leaves
fenugreek leaves
This mildly bitter herb is believed to have medicinal properties. Dried leaves, either whole or ground, are called kasuri methi, and they're a good substitute for fresh. Look for fresh or dried leaves in Indian markets.
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filé powder, fil, fil powder, file, filé, file powder, ground sassafras leaves
filé powder
This powder is made from the same sassfras tree leaves that used to give root beer its distinctive flavor, back in the days before artificial flavorings. Southerners add filé to their gumbos to thicken and flavor them. The powder gets stringy when it's heated, so add it only after you've removed the gumbo from the heat source. Filé also doesn't reheat well, so add it only to the gumbo that you're planning to eat right away.
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flowering chives, flowering Chinese chives, flowering garlic chives
flowering chives
These come from the same plant as Chinese chives. They're usually marketed and cooked before the buds open.
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guajes, cuajes, huaje, leadtrees
guajes
These green or purple flat pods contain seeds that impart an unusual, garlicky flavor to Mexican dishes. The seeds are terrific with scrambled eggs or beans, but they have a reputation for causing flatulence.
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hoja santa leaves, acuyo, anisillo, hierba santa, Mexican pepperleaf
hoja santa leaves
These heart-shaped leaves impart a root beer flavor to dishes, and they're great for wrapping tamales and other foods. They're hard to find; your best bet is a Hispanic market.
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holy basil, bai gaprao, bai kaprao, bai kaprow, bai kraprao, kaphrao
holy basil
This has jagged leaves. It's fairly pungent, so it's rarely eaten raw.
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huauzontle, guausoncle
huauzontle
This Mexican vegetable looks like a long, skinny broccoli stick. Mexican cooks dip them in batter and deep-fat fry them.
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hyssop
hyssop
The leaves and small blue flowers of this plant are used as a garnish or to impart a mild, slightly bitter flavor to salads, soups, and liqueurs. Don't waste your time drying the leaves--they'll lose almost all of their flavor.
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Indian bay leaf, Indian bark, Indian cassia, Malabar leaf, malabathrum, tezpat
Indian bay leaf
Dried leaves are very good substitutes for fresh. Don't confuse these with Indonesian bay leaves.
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Italian parsley
Italian parsley
This is the best parsley to use for cooking--it has more flavor than the more common curly parsley. Avoid dried parsley; it has very little flavor.
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kaffir lime leaf, bai makrut, daun jeruk purut, daun limau purut
kaffir lime leaf
A kaffir lime leaf look as if two glossy, dark green leaves were joined together end to end, forming a figure-eight pattern. Most Thai recipes count each double leaf as two separate leaves. Frozen kaffir lime leaves are a good substitute for fresh. Dried leaves are much less flavorful, so use twice as many as the recipe calls for if you're substituting them for fresh leaves.
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kuka
This African herb is a powder made from the leaves of a baobab trees.
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la-lot leaf, la lot leaf, pepper leaf, wild betel
la-lot leaf
These are used as meat wrappers in Vietnam.
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laksa leaf, daun kesom, laksa leaf, praew leaf, rau ram, Vietnamese cilantro
laksa leaf
Vietnamese sprinkle this herb on their laksa soups. It has a strong, minty, peppery flavor. It's sold in bunches with lots of pointy leaves on each stem.
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lemon balm, balm, balm mint, bee balm, common balm, melissa
lemon balm
Cooks use this herb in teas, salads, jams, and soups. The fresh leaves also make an attractive garnish.
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lemon basil, bai maengluk, bai manglak, hoary basil, kemangi, Lao basil
lemon basil
This has a lemony flavor, and small, pointed, fuzzy leaves. Thai cooks toss it into soups, salads, and noodle dishes.
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lemon thyme, citrus thyme
lemon thyme
This variety of thyme has a lemony flavor.
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lemon verbena, lemon beebrush, verbena
lemon verbena
This has a strong lemon flavor that works especially well in teas and vegetable dishes. If you can't find it in the spice section, cut open lemon verbena teabags.
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lemongrass, barbed wire grass, citronella, Cochin grass, fever grass
lemongrass
Thai cooks use these grayish green stalks to impart a lemony flavor to their dishes. Remove the outer leaves, then use about six inches of the base, discarding the top and the very bottom. It's best to cut lemongrass into large pieces that can be easily removed after the dish is cooked. Frozen lemongrass is a good substitute for fresh, but dried lemongrass (soaked in hot water) is only a fair substitute. Use powdered version (called sereh powder) only in a pinch.
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lovage, smallage, smellage, wild celery
lovage
Lovage tastes like celery, but it's even more pungent and flavorful. The only drawback but it can't withstand long cooking like celery can. Use it in any recipe that calls for celery, but use less and add it to cooked dishes at the last minute.
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marjoram, knot marjoram, knotted marjoram, pot marjoram, sweet marjoram
marjoram
Marjoram is sweeter and milder than its close relative, oregano. It's often used to season meats and fish, and works best when its added near the end of the cooking period. Fresh is best, but frozen or dried marjoram are acceptable substitutes. Don't confuse this with wild marjoram, which is better known as oregano.
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meloukhia, Jew's mallow, jute, jute mallow, molukhia, nalta jute
meloukhia
Middle Eastern cooks use this as an herb in their soups. In other regions, fresh meloukhia is used as a cooking green, much like spinach.
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mint
mint
Mint is used throughout the world to flavor everything from lamb to candy. It's also a great garnish and breath freshener. Spearmint is the variety you're most likely to encounter in markets, and it's the best choice for savory dishes. Peppermint = brandy mint has a stronger flavor and is best suited to dessert recipes. Used dried mint only in a pinch--it's not nearly as flavorful as fresh.
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mitsuba, East Asian wildparsley, honewort, Japanese honewort, san ye qin
mitsuba
The Japanese use this to flavor soups and salads.
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opal basil, dark opal basil
opal basil
Opal basil has purple leaves and a longer shelf life than sweet basil, but the two can be used interchangeably in most recipes.
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oregano, pot marjoram, wild marjoram
oregano
Oregano is a popular herb in Mediterranean countries, where it's often used to season tomato sauces, meat dishes, and pizzas. Mexican oregano has a mintier taste than ordinary oregano. If you can't find it fresh, dried oregano is a good substitute.
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