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Give Your Food a Flavor Pop with Herbs

DillMakenzie Forward is working in our office as an NDSU intern this week, and she wrote this week’s column.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

Everyone has at least one weird food craving that they get every now and then. For me, it’s pickles, and I think that has a lot to do with the herbs, dill and garlic, that are used to add flavor to them.

Herbs have been used for numerous things such as cooking, medicine, pest control, aromatherapy and certain religious ceremonies for many centuries. Of course, herbs aren’t used as a food to eat plain, but rather, they are consumed as a garnish to add flavor, aroma, and even healing properties.


Growing herbs is fairly simple. They need adequate light, water, and nutrients in the soil to produce good quality plants. Herbs can be grown by directly seeding them in the soil, or they can be started indoors and then transplanted outside once temps are favorable. When harvesting the plants, timing is crucial to get the best flavor possible! Most of the time, herbs should be harvested after the dew has dried but before it starts to get hot outside.  

Types of herbs that grow well in North Dakota include anise hyssop, basil, chamomile, chives, cilantro (coriander), dill, garlic, lavender, oregano, and tarragon. The two I’d like to touch on are cilantro and dill.

Cilantro, sometimes called coriander, is popular in Mexican, Chinese, South American, and Vietnamese dishes. Before it became popular in food, it was used as a love potion in the Middle Ages. The herb requires full sunlight to grow and regular watering for best results. If you like to make salsa, this herb would be a great way to spice up your creation!  Because salsa-making and food preservation are more science than art, be sure to use a research-based salsa recipe to assure food safety.

Dill is one of the most commonly grown annual herbs in the upper Midwest. It is also unique because you can use the seeds, leaves, and seeds in umbels in different dishes. Dill loves cool weather, therefore, it should be sown in early spring. When the temperature starts to rise, dill goes to seed or “bolts.” Dill is used in many pickling recipes and is also found in salads, green beans, meatballs, egg dishes, stews, fish, and chicken.

As a dietetic student, I am always interested in finding ways to make recipes healthier. Herbs are great to use because they add lots of flavor, and they don’t contain any calories. They are also used as substitutes for salt which helps cut down on the amount of fat and salt that is used in some recipes to make the dish more heart healthy!

Flavorful recipes for Herb Butter, Herbed Cream Cheese, and additional information on growing, harvesting, and using herbs in food preparation, is available online at lease www.ag.ndsu.edu/horticulture or www.ag.ndsu.edu/food.  A free copy “Harvesting Herbs for Healthy Eating” is available from the Extension office. 

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