Most areas now offer many different kinds of herbs, both fresh and dried. With this range of choices, many people wonder whether they should be buying fresh or dried herbs. Both come with a list of benefits and drawbacks that should make it easy to decide which is best for you and your lifestyle.
Benefits of Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs are definitely the healthier choice, with high levels of antioxidants and other anticancer properties. In fact, fresh herbs have been found to have higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. These nutrients are responsible for the fresh, pungent taste that we all love. While many people have a hard time getting their quota of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs offer all the benefits of these in a concentrated form.
If you are interested in herbs for medicinal use, it is crucial that you buy them fresh. Commercial methods of drying and preserving herbs not only destroy the taste of herbs, but their health and medicinal benefits as well.
In addition, fresh herbs have a superior taste compared to dried ones. Many chefs swear by fresh herbs and even keep their own herb gardens. Fresh herbs can make the difference between a ‘blah’ dish and an extraordinary one.
Drawbacks of Fresh Herbs
Like other leafy plants, fresh herbs have a relatively short shelf life. They are best when used in just a few days and must be kept in a cold dark place during that time. However, many people have found growing herbs to be an easy and rewarding endeavor that can fit easily on a windowsill. If growing your own is not an option, consider buying fresh herbs and drying them yourself. Home drying methods are not as destructive as commercial ones.
Benefits of Dried Herbs
Dried herbs are the most popular type, and there are several good reasons for this. First, they are shelf stable and can keep almost indefinitely, adding convenience for busy cooks. Because they have no water, they are more concentrated than fresh herbs; just a sprinkling of dried oregano will flavor an entire pot of spaghetti sauce. Fresh herbs generally require three times the volume for the same level of flavor.
Drawbacks of Dry Herbs
While dry herbs contain more herb flavor, they also have a concentrated amount of the bitter flavor that bothers many people. Because they are dried quickly and abruptly, many herbs have little antioxidant or nutritional qualities and almost no medicinal value. Home dried herbs, however, are not as devoid of benefits.
If you are looking for maximum health value, fresh herbs are the way to go. They are easy to incorporate into your diet, with fresh, crisp flavors that can be added to your favorite recipes or steeped into a nutritious tea. However, dried herbs are the clear winner when it comes to convenience. Unfortunately health vs. convenience seems to be a common dilemma for modern people. However, options such as home herb gardens and home dried herbs make it possible for the busy and health oriented person to get the best of both worlds.