Linda Geist

BETHANY, Mo. – ’Tis the season to experiment with fresh herbs in holiday dips and dishes.

If you’re new to using fresh herbs, the holidays are a good time to dabble in these delights, says Janet Hackert, University of Missouri Extension regional nutrition and health education specialist.

Volatiles in plants give herbs their rich flavors and distinctive aromas. Fresh herbs also add visual appeal to holiday dishes.

There are health benefits too, Hackert says. By enhancing flavors, herbs reduce the need for salt and fat.

To get the full flavor of fresh herbs, don’t add them until the end of the cooking process, Hackert says. Wait until food is simmering or near the end of cooking.

However, add dried herbs early in the cooking process of slow-cooked dishes. This gives dried herbs time to rehydrate and infuse flavor throughout the dish.

Store dried herbs in airtight containers and avoid moisture and direct sunlight.

Store fresh herbs by wrapping stems in damp paper towels and putting them in the produce bin of the refrigerator.

Chop leafy herbs, place small amounts in ice cube trays and fill with water, freeze and package for later use.

You can find helpful tips and a list of substitutions at

The MU Extension publication “Herbs and Spices” (N362) has two charts that help new cooks. One chart lists commons herbs and spices and how to use them. The other offers suggested seasonings for different vegetables. The two-page guide is available for download at

Contact Hackert at 660-425-6434 or for more information.