Along with all of the season’s vegetables and fruits, summer is when fresh herbs gain the most popularity.
Sure, you can keep herbs alive during other parts of the year, but many of them begin to really thrive when the weather gets warm. Basil, rosemary, sage, parsley, mint, and cilantro are big players in the fresh herb world since they’re fairly easy to get in supermarkets and in gardens. But they’re not the only herbs that you could use to add flavour to your dishes.
Try one of these herbs that are lesser known for some different combinations.
Perilla is also known as the beefsteak plant, but you’ve more likely run into it in culinary applications as shiso leaf, which is what the herb is called in Japan. Shiso leaves have a warm flavour that tastes vaguely like licorice, making them lovely to pair with fennel. It’s also a nice addition to fruit.
If you’re a Julia Child fan, you’ve likely already run into chervil, a herb that’s used liberally in classic French dishes. It’s also sometimes known as French parsley, and regular parsley is a substitute when it’s called for but none is around. But if you have the chance to taste it, you’ll notice the difference between the aggressive green flavour of parsley and the subtler, more anise-flavoured chervil. It’s a good herb to use with fish.
I have a tiny bottle of dried marjoram in the back of my spice cabinet, but it usually only comes out once a year when I make a big stew that calls for it. Fresh marjoram is a whole different category. If you can’t find any, oregano makes a good substitute, but marjoram has a different profile than its more popular relative. It has notes of pine and citrus, making it a particularly nice match for lemon juice. It’s delicious in pasta sauces. You can also use it to make an alternative to chimichurri to pair with grilled chicken or vegetables.
This one is a little confusing, because to my ears, savoury is a category, not a particular herb. But in fact, it’s an aromatic herb that has both a summer and a winter version. Both are worth your time, but since we’re talking about summer herbs, summer savoury is the one to look for now. It’s an herb that’s a little bit lemon-y and slightly bitter. It smells sort of like thyme. It tastes great with, say, marinated tomatoes or in a warm potato salad with green beans.
Yes, this herb tastes like lemon, and is a nice way to add a touch of lemon flavour to all kinds of dishes when you don’t want to use the actual fruit, or when you want to enhance its flavour. It’s often added to tea to give it a lemon flavor. You can use it in desserts. But it would also add a nice note to soups and sauces. Taste it and see what you think it might pair well with. You might be surprised.