I love checking out new grocery store products — especially at places like Aldi and T.J. Maxx because the selection is unpredictable and seemingly random. Here's a new wine! Here's a great deal on fancy cookies! Here's an olive oil that tastes like trail mix!
The special, limited-time finds section of the store is like a mini treasure hunt. Sometimes you find something wonderful, and sometimes you find something awful. And sometimes you find something that makes you go, "Wait, what?"
That happened this week when I got my Aldi Finds flyer and saw a special on "SimplyNature Organic Herbs in a Tube."
SimplyNature is Aldi's organic brand, and the "Herbs in a Tube" come in three varieties: basil, garlic, and ginger. I did not know what to make of this.
My gut reaction was one of intense and immediate skepticism, but the more I thought about that reaction, the more I thought it didn't make a whole lot of sense. I use tomato paste all the time, I have no problem at all with black olive paste in a tube (it's basically just squeezable tapenade, after all), and I find anchovy paste extremely convenient when I don't have actual anchovies around, which is most of the time.
So what could possibly be wrong with garlic paste in a tube? Or ginger paste in a tube? With all the recipes that involve ginger and garlic, these certainly sound like useful things to have around.
I was most skeptical about the basil paste. Basil just doesn't keep its flavor very long once it's chopped; even pesto starts to lose its fresh, herbaceous flavor in a relatively short time. I couldn't imagine how a tube of basil paste would hold onto that.
I went back and forth on this all day and finally decided I just couldn't come to a conclusion without actually trying the things, so I went out to get some. I was only able to find basil and garlic. Here's what I thought after trying them.
Aldi's "Herbs in a Tube" Are Not Worth It
The basil paste is extremely salty, and also a bit lemony. It's 68 percent basil, but the rest is sunflower oil, salt, olive oil, lemon juice concentrate, and xanthan and guar gums. It tastes a bit like old pesto, but the basil flavor is not very strong or fresh. It could maybe work in a pasta sauce if you didn't have access to fresh basil, but it doesn't seem like a very satisfying option in anything where the basil flavor is meant to be highlighted.
The garlic paste doesn't have the burn or sharpness of fresh garlic. It actually reminded me a lot of garlic-flavored cream cheese, but without the cheese. It's also very strong. I tasted it an hour ago, and now the smell of garlic paste is trapped in my sinuses, so everything I put in my mouth tastes like garlic right now. (I'm really regretting the handful of M&Ms I just tried to eat.)
For people who live in areas where access to fresh ingredients is limited, these tubes could prove very useful. They're also great for people who would benefit from the convenience of having these flavoring agents ready to use at a moment's notice — whether it's a busy parent or someone with severe arthritis in their hands.
One thing to note: If you do use these pastes, make sure to taste the dish before adding salt, because they are very salty on their own!
What do you think of herbs in tubes?