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Summer Produce: What’s Up with Herbs?

With farmer’s markets across the country in full swing, you might be wondering how in the world you’re going to navigate the overflowing stands of fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs.

With more leafy greens than you can count and basil plants that seem to be bursting at the seams, how does a produce novice manage to take home fruits and veggies that will make it to your table and into your meals and snacks?

This week, we’re taking you through some of the herbs – popular and obscure – that you might encounter at your farmer’s market. Because fresh herbs sold at outdoor or indoor local markets are typically fresh and free of preservatives, you’ll need to use them pretty quickly.

Basil: Often associated with Italian cooking, basil has been originally traced back to India and plays a major role in a number of ethnic cuisines including Vietnamese and Thai.  Basil is perfect in Snapper with Lemon Basil Sauce or in a refreshing Thai Basil Bliss cocktail.

Mint: Made famous by the much-loved mojito, mint is a popular herb that is easy to grow and available in abundance at most farmer’s markets during warm-weather months. Cool off with Papaya Mint Popsicles or combine blueberries and crunchy jicama in a refreshing Blueberry Jicama Salad with fresh mint.

Cilantro: Also known as the leaves of the coriander plant, cilantro is equally loved and hated by much of the population. It has a fairly strong flavor, so while the herb has a strong following, others equate its taste with soap. If you do enjoy cilantro, try it in Southwestern and Asian dishes like Cilantro Chicken or Shrimp, Avocado and Cilantro Ceviche.

Lemon Thyme: Though you’ll find thyme in the grocery store year-round, take advantage of summer markets and try updated versions of this mainstay herb. To add extra flavor without extra calories, substitute lemon thyme for plain in Chicken with Feta Sauce and Salt Free Chicken.

Dill: A perennial herb with roots in Eastern Europe, fresh and dried dill leaves match well with salmon, chicken and hearty vegetables like carrots or potatoes. Make Creamy Dill Potato Salad for you next cookout or whip up Baked Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce.

July 27th, 2011

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