In Season Now: Fresh Herbs and the Language of Cuisine

by Ian Wickman


There is a something about fresh herbs that has the power to transform almost any dish. Herbs add aroma, texture, color, depth, and bursts of flavor. They are varied and subtle, or not, they are magic for seasonal cooking. When I use them I feel joy. Simply chopping a little bit of a fresh herb as I’m starting to cook fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma. It gives me energy and inspiration. Add a little music, maybe a glass of wine, and I can get lost cooking for hours.

One of the things I appreciate most about herbs is how ubiquitous they are. You can find fresh local herbs year round in most places. Right now I have at least 10 different fresh herbs growing in my garden and get more/different ones from my weekly farm box. There were many years when I didn’t have access to an outdoor garden but I could grow herbs inside year round. That’s another thing I appreciate, they are so easy to grow with almost no effort!

are Ancient and Foundational to any Cuisine

Herbs have been utilized by cooks for almost as long as people have been cooking. I can’t imagine having been the first person to start using a random plant to flavor my food, but I know what they said as soon as they did: “You have got to try this!”. They are foundational to any cuisine. Different herbs, specific combinations of herbs and spices, one smell and you are transported to a land far away.

all You Need to Know is How to Speak their Language

Scientists say that food memories are some of the strongest memories our brains make. Food memories speak to us and the herbs and foundational flavors are the language each cuisine speaks. They come together to tell you the story. Once you understand the basics of these things you can start to speak the language of that cuisine. I’m still delighted every time I can take a single ingredient, change the herbs and spices and it’s instantly transformed from one cuisine or culture to another. You can take an eggplant from Italian, to Indian, to Thai, to Middle Eastern or anywhere else you want to go.

Right now, between my garden and farm box I’ve got an abundance of parsley and oregano, so I’m going to Argentina with one of my favorites, chimichurri… and I think I’ll probably grill some steaks with chimichurri and quickled onions tonight!

Join the Conversation:

What are your favorite herbs or favorite dish with herbs? Do you feel particularly fluent with certain cuisines?

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