BETTER BY THE BUNCH

Q: What is a bouquet garni?

While the cold and wet weather has impacted on some fruit and vegetables lines (read: beans, rocket, zucchini flowers), we are pleased to say that our locally-grown ‘bunch’ herbs are holding up well this winter. Not only are they high quality, but in good supply and therefore fantastic buying at the moment. Simon George & Sons has an extensive range of ‘bunch’ herbs available and while Thai Basil and Garlic Chives are currently in short supply, the varieties listed below should continue to be among our best buys over the coming weeks. So why not take advantage of the favourable conditions and stock up on some of nature’s most vibrant, mouth-watering flavour enhancers.

Selection & Storage: When selecting herbs the general rule is to look for bright, fresh leaves, free of bruising or yellowing that boast healthy, firm stems. To maximise the shelf life of most bunch herbs place them in a glass of water, cover the top of the glass with plastic, seal and place in the fridge- change the water daily.

 

BASIL:

Availability: all year, best Dec – Apr

Appearance: bright green, oval leaves

Flavour: slightly sweet, grassy cloves

Storage: place stems in water, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Change water daily and use within a week

Preparation: delicate herb, once sliced it browns very quickly. Quite versatile, basil can be used fresh to accent a dish or can be used as the base of a sauce or to accent flavours such as tomato

 

BAY LEAF:

www.foodsubs.com

Availability: all year

Appearance: bright green, pointed, smooth leaves

Flavour: earthy aroma, almost bitter edge

Selection: leaves should be bright green with a glossy top and boast a strong aroma

Storage: store in airtight container in fridge or freeze in an airtight bag

Preparation: slow cooking specialist, removed before consumption

 

CHERVIL: aka French parsley

Image: www.naturalfare.co.nz

Availability: Apr – Dec

Appearance: looks similar to parsley or a carrot top

Flavour: aniseed, parsley

Preparation: flavour is lost when dried or cooked, so use fresh in salads or as a garnish

 

CORIANDER:  aka cilantro

Image: freepik

Availability: all year

Appearance: broad bright green, feathered leaf

Flavour: pungent, distinct aroma

Preparation: use in Thai or Asian cooking especially curries, stir-fries, salads. Add stems of leaves as base of sauce, then delicate leaves prior to serving to get maximum flavour and as a striking garnish.

 

DILL: aka dill weed

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: fine, feathered, blue-green leaves

Flavour: light, aromatic grassy flavour

Selection: leaves should be nicely feathered and stems firm and healthy

Preparation: add just before serving to fish, egg, potato dishes or as a garnish

 

LAVENDER:

Image: freepik.com

Availability: Spring – Autumn

Appearance: green stems and distinctive small, purple flowers

Flavour: delicate, floral flavour, with citrus overtones

Preparation: flowers and leaves can be used. Most often used in baking (ground into sugar), desserts, meaty stews, salads or as a garnish (even as a garnish in a glass of champers)

 

LEMON BALM:  aka balm mint, sweet balm

Image: www.uni-graz.at

Availability: short season, spring-summer

Appearance: heart shaped, veined leaves covered with coarse hairs

Flavour: fresh lemon aroma and flavour

Preparation: Fantastic with fish. Add late in the cooking process or use fresh in salads or as a garnish. Combines well with Chervil

 

LEMON GRASS:

Image: www.foodsubs.com

Availability: all year- peak in warm weather

Appearance: long grass –like stalks

Flavour: pungent, distinctive lemon hit

Preparation: peel tough outer layers of stem and trim base. If using as an infusion, bruise the stem to release oils before adding. Or finely chop into stir-fries, curries etc

 

MARJORAM: aka sweet marjoram

Image: www.herbexpert.co.uk

Availability: all year

Appearance: woody stems, small, oval leaves (that fall on opposite sides of the stem) and white flowers

Flavour: delicate and aromatic- sweeter and milder than oregano

Preparation: fantastic with roast meat dishes, in stuffing (vege, chicken or meat) and as a garnish on salads, egg and potato dishes

 

MINT:

COMMON MINT:

Availability: all year

Appearance: wrinkled leaves,

Flavour: refreshing, unique aroma and flavour

Preparation: savoury and sweet

 

VIETNAMESE MINT: aka hot mint

Availability: all year

Appearance: long, pointed leaves with a purple tint at base (distinct band across leaf)

Flavour: spicy, citrusy, pepper flavour – common in South East Asian, Vietnamese cuisine

Preparation: rinse gently and use raw in salads, summer rolls, shredded into laksa or stews

 

SPEARMINT:

Availability: all year

Appearance: light green, wrinkled leaves

Flavour: sweet, refreshing mint flavour

Preparation: most commonly used mint variety for cooking – fantastic in savoury meat dishes, salads, desserts (chocolate) or cocktails

 

OREGANO: aka wild marjoram

Image: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: tiny leaves and pink/purple edible flowers on a woody stem

Flavour: slightly sharp, warm, pungent flavour

Preparation: quite hardy, add early in the cooking process as slow cooking enhances flavour  

 

PARSLEY:

Images: www.naturalfare.co.nz

CONTINENTAL PARSLEY aka Italian parsley

Availability: all year

Appearance: flat, cut leaves

Flavour: refreshing aroma, mild flavour

Preparation: best variety for cooking as its bright flavour holds up well and will enhance the accompanying flavours in the dish

 

CURLY PARSLEY aka English Parsley

Availability: all year

Appearance: dark green leaves that curl up at the edges

Flavour: coarser flavour than continental parsley

Preparation: edible stems and leaves, refreshing and visually appealing garnish

 

ROSEMARY:

Image: www.naturalfare.co.nz

Availability: all year

Appearance: long, sharp leaves

Flavour: warm, pepper

Preparation: a hardy plant, rosemary is often used as a base to roasting meat dishes such as lamb and poultry- firm woody stem also serves as a fantastic skewer that subtly flavours the meat as it marinades and cooks

 

SAGE: aka kitchen sage

Image: freepik

Availability: all year

Appearance: green, leathery leaves that are covered in fine hairs. They can be long and slim or slightly broader

Flavour: musky, pepper flavour

Preparation: good cooking herb especially with fatty or oily foods. Also good in soups, mash potato, marinades or baking

 

TARRAGON: a very delicate herb, tarragon tends to wilt after harvest. This does not impact the flavour

TARRAGON:

Availability: all year

Appearance: long, slim leaves on a woody stem with a stunning edible, yellow flower that appears in winter as its natural season ends

Flavour: spicy, aniseed with a slightly sweet, tart aftertaste

Preparation: a classic French herb, tarragon is a well known ingredient in béarnaise sauce and compound butters – popular herb for flavouring fish and chicken dishes

 

FRENCH TARRAGON:

Availability: all year – easily affected by weather therefore supply can fluctuate throughout the year

Appearance: long, slim, glossy green leaves

Flavour: stronger than regular tarragon but still boasts the same slightly tart, aniseed punch

Preparation: use more sparingly due to its powerful flavour

 

THYME: best with strong flavoured dishes as it can overpower a dish very easily

Images: www.naturespride.eu

THYME:

Availability: all year

Appearance: woody stem with tiny, grey-green rounded leaves

Flavour: strong, pungent aroma – spicy, pepper flavour

Preparation: fantastic for slow cooking as holds flavour well

 

LEMON THYME: aka citrus thyme

Availability: all year

Appearance: small, heart shaped leaves (green/yellow) on a woody stem

Flavour: strong lemon aroma and mild flavour

Preparation: sweet and savoury

 

WATERCRESS:

Image: www.worldhealth.net

Availability: all year

Appearance: small, rounded pale green leaves on light green stems

Flavour: zesty, slightly bitter

Preparation: use torn into soups, salads, sandwiches or as a garnish

 

A: A bouquet garni is a bundle of aromatic herbs tied together with string and dropped into soups, stews, stocks and casseroles to add flavour. The bouquet garni allows chefs to capture the flavour of the herbs, while also having the freedom to remove them at any stage of the cooking process. While there is no set recipe, the  Bouquet Garni is traditionally known to feature parsley, thyme, bay leaves and possible marjoram- however celery, leeks, carrots and a variety of other herbs are often added into the mix. In fact, the Larousse Gastronomique notes that in ancient times the bouquet garni contained cloves and was wrapped up using a thin slice of lard.

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