Item: Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Herbs
Overall Impression: With impressively green flavor and a month-long shelf life, these herbs straddle the line between fresh and dried.
We're all looking for little helpers in the kitchen — ways to streamline the weeknight dinner-making process, add bursts of flavor to otherwise uninspired meals, and maybe most importantly, encourage us to cook more often. This new product line from Gourmet Garden is helping me on all of those fronts, so I'm happy to have them on hand!
Characteristics and specs: A semi-dried, refrigerator-dwelling selection of herbs, ready to sprinkle into your favorite recipes. They are currently available in five varieties: parsley, basil, cilantro, chili pepper, and ginger. Use them like you would fresh or dried herbs, at the beginning, middle, or end of cooking.
Favorite details: They’re convenient and long-lasting, with a four-week shelf life once opened. It's nice to have some fresh, er, semi-preserved herbs around to perk up dishes, without worrying that they'll yellow and wither before I can get to them.
Potential problems: There's more packaging involved than when you purchase a knob of ginger or a bunch of cilantro. I am trying not to feel guilty about all these little plastic interlopers hanging out in my fridge. I will be recycling them, of course, but I like to avoid excess packaging when possible. Gourmet Garden does note that you can remove the labels and repurpose the clear, plastic bowls as storage containers or prep bowls in the kitchen.
Splurge-worthy? $3.99 is a little more than I'd pay for a bunch of fresh, organic herbs, but not that much more.
Good for small kitchens? Definitely. The little bowls are much more space-efficient than a large bunch of herbs. Five of them are biding their time in my cheese drawer (I don't buy much cheese), and they don't take up much room at all. They also lock together so you can stack them vertically if you please.
When I'm deciding what to cook, I usually take a quick inventory of what's in the fridge, then open up the spice cabinet and pick a flavor profile to guide my cooking process. Now, though, I can skip the spice cabinet entirely, and end up with a brighter, tastier meal to boot.
How I've Used Them
I've been cooking with my "lightly dried" herbs for a couple weeks now, and they're been great in every dish I've made. First up was a sauté of green onions and fava beans, with the basil sprinkled in right at the end of cooking. The leaves are pliable enough to use at the last minute, at least in hot dishes where they'll soften a little bit when stirred in. They recommend using half the amount of lightly dried herbs as you would the fresh variety.
I also threw handfuls of parsley and basil into a batch of turkey meatballs to good effect, and stirred some of the cilantro into roasted vegetables while they were still hot from the oven.
Most delightfully, I found that unlike fully dried herbs, these will make a killer pesto in a pinch! The other night when I didn't have any jarred sauce around for a pasta dish, into the food processor they went, along with some with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and a handful of almonds. In a minute, I had a great topping for a weeknight pasta dish. Not too shabby!
While I usually have fresh herbs on hand (we have some growing in the back yard, and our CSA box usually includes a bunch or two), it's nice to have a good alternative on hand. Come wintertime when it's hard to find nice, fresh basil, I'll definitely be picking these up again.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.