Savory Swaps

Take a moment to think about cooking with your favorite herb. Are its leaves small and round, or are they broad and jagged? What scent does it leave as it brushes against your fingertips, and how does that aroma change as the herb is crushed, sliced, and chopped?

There’s nothing quite like the transformation that fresh herbs can bring to our food. What would homemade tomato sauce be without the addition of basil and oregano? Think about the powerful combination of rosemary, thyme, and sage for roasting vegetables, or how dill and mint can spice up a regular green salad.

Herbs pack such a flavor-filled punch in such small quantity that recipes rarely require more than a few sprigs or tablespoons. If you’re fortunate to have an herb garden of your own, you can pick just as much as you need. But for many, cooking to incorporate variety and flavor will eventually require a trip to the market, where bunches of herbs are often pre-packed in a much larger quantity than needed. Sure they will last for a while on their own, and you can plan other meals to incorporate the leftovers, but even with best intentions they can be easy to forget.

As we look to minimize waste, starting an herb-share is a potentially fun and effective solution. The idea isn’t necessarily new, but it’s one worth repeating and promoting. Whether it be among members of your family, reaching out to neighbors, or even co-workers, why not share some of your surplus that may otherwise go to waste? And if you do have your own garden filled with unique or heirloom varieties, try treating others to a new and interesting ingredient (maybe along with a favorite recipe?). Chances are, your savory gifts will be reciprocated, and you may find yourself experiencing a new herb yourself—grateful to the sun, soil wind, rain and all the elements that helped it grow, and grateful for the generosity and thoughtfulness of a friend.