Trying to decide between fresh spices and dried? Here are the main points of the Great Debate:
In Favor of Fresh
The flavor of fresh herbs cannot be beat. Have you ever had fresh basil? Then you understand the point.
It’s really easy to grow your own herb garden, either indoors or out. This makes herbs nearly free and always fresh, and you don’t have to worry about them going bad in the refrigerator.
The nutritional value of fresh herbs is much greater than their dried counterparts. For example, fresh basil provides 30% Daily Value of Vitamin C; dried only 4%. If you care about the nutrient content of your foods, fresh is the way to go, and the fresher, the better: just-picked is better than refrigerated.
Always choose fresh:
-in a salad or anything uncooked
-in dishes where spices are added in the last 5 minutes of cooking
-when using parsley, chives, and, to a lesser degree, rosemary
In Defense of Dried
Dried spices keep much longer than fresh ones. They’re easier to keep on hand without planning ahead to stop in the grocery store.
With dried spices, you have the option of buying blends, such as “Italian Seasoning” or chili spice blends. These save time and don’t require as much spice expertise.
Dried herbs are also much cheaper than buying fresh packets!
Always choose dried:
-when simmering, or cooking longer than 15 minutes. The benefits of fresh spices will disappear with long cooking times.
You should refrigerate fresh herbs so they keep longer. You can also preserve freshly picked herbs either by freezing whole, or by making little olive-oil-and-chopped-herb cubes in ice cube trays. The cubes work especially well for basil, which doesn’t freeze well whole.
Dried herbs should never be stored over the stove! It’s convenient, but that rising heat will cook the flavor out of your spices, and render them useless. In general, dried green herbs will keep about one year, crushed spices about two years, and whole up to three years.
The conversion ratio for fresh to dry is about 1 to 3. So, if you’re substituting dry spices for a fresh, use about three times as much: fresh for dry, use about one third. Remember that this ratio varies from spice to spice.
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