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Make the most of the fresh flavors of the fruits, vegetables and locally raised meats in our area by clipping your herbs regularly and adding them to your favorite summer menus. KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail

Looks like Mom was cooking with the window open, again!

You can tell because everything at the table has green specks in it or on it. What you can also tell is that those green specks add bright color and fresh flavors to a menu.

Farmers markets are offering great varieties of herbs for home gardeners who have a sunny plot to grow their own. The Purple Onion, like other grocery stores, offers a variety of packaged herbs as well. And, with the emphasis on fresh tastes for local foods, this is a good time to discover the intriguing options for herbs in your kitchens.

Make the most of the fresh flavors of the fruits, vegetables and locally raised meats in our area by clipping your herbs regularly and adding them to your favorite summer menus and some new recipes that will soon be favorites!

Most of us are familiar with classic herb pairings like basil with tomato and sage in Thanksgiving stuffing. We might know that fresh mint and curly leaf parsley with its crisp, clean taste are great together in a Mediterranean tabbouleh.

Brighten an hors d’oeuvres platter by mixing eight ounces of softened goat cheese with the zest of one lemon, a tablespoon of chopped chives and thyme and spreading it on warm baguette toasts.

Bump up salads with pairings like chervil with butter lettuce, cilantro with romaine and tarragon with frisee.

Get your meats and seafood ready for the grill with a tangy chimichurri marinade or give those just-harvested new potatoes a new salad twist with herbs and lemon.

Think about brightening your grilled squash, zucchini or mushrooms with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and fresh thyme, rosemary or oregano. Add zip to your Sunday scrambled eggs with finely chopped chives.

Make your butter a star with herbal additives. We’ve offered classic herb butter here, but you can be creative with dill, basil and rosemary.

Freshen that salad bowl with a berry and herb salad that makes great use of the ripe, fresh berries in the market.

To end on a sweet note, consider infusing rich, homemade vanilla bean ice cream with mint or lavender. Give shortbread cookies a new twist with Biscuits au Romarin.

Open the windows wide! Let the herbs in!

Take good care of your herbs

To make the best of fresh herbs, be sure you take good care of them. Here are some tips that will help you use, not lose, the produce you bring home.

First, remember this: Herbs have different care needs.

If you have an herb garden, don’t let that treasure get away from you! Whether you use your herbs regularly or not, remember to give them some love and prune them. You need to do this because it’s good for the health of the plants and encourages fresh growth, giving you bushier foliage instead of a spindly, tall and thin plant. Pruning allows you to control the size of the plant itself and the size of your garden or herb bed.

Once you bring herbs indoors, store them properly. Generally, herbs fall into soft and hard categories. With all herbs, wash them when you bring them in to remove dirt and bacteria that could promote quick decay. Simply rinse herbs gently under cold running water and remove the moisture in a salad spinner or with dry kitchen or paper towels.

Soft herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil and mint like the wet jar storage method. Gather the herbs in a bunch and trim the ends. If your herbs come with a band around them, remove that. Place the greens in a wide-mouth jar and add enough cool water to cover the ends but not touch the leaves. Cover the top of the herbs with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator, replacing the water every couple of days. If you’ve got basil, use this method but don’t refrigerator this herb. Instead leave it on the kitchen counter where it gets sunlight.

Hard herbs with woody stems such as sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano do better when loosely wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel to stay moist. Place in a tightly sealed container or resealable bag in your refrigerator. Check the herbs from time to time to be sure the paper towel has not dried out. If you store a lot of herbs like this, consider purchasing an organic cotton reusable herb/produce bag.

Source: WV Farm2Fork: Keep flavors fresh with herbs | Wv Culinary Team |