Fresh herbs are growing in popularity. An increase in sales over the past two years shows that consumers are increasingly seeking out fresh herbs. Those consumers are more likely to be discriminating cooks, so draw them into your store with a great selection of fresh herbs.
- Fresh herbs offer a host of health benefits. Glucosinolates in horseradish have been shown to help prevent cancer. Dill and garlic can prevent bacterial growth. Dill also contains elements that allow it to help neutralize some types of carcinogens. Fennel has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Herbs are versatile in their use, so they offer up some great cross-merchandising opportunities, including thyme and zucchini, basil and tomatoes, dill, tarragon and fish, sage and poultry and rosemary and lamb.
- Fresh herbs are available year-round. Make the most of holidays and seasonal promotions to get them moving.
- Fall: Promote basil and dill to consumers looking to can their own foods.
- Winter: Include fresh herbs in your winter holiday promotions. Encourage consumers to try using fresh herbs in stuffing and poultry recipes instead of dried ones.
- Spring: Lamb is popular during the Easter holidays, promote flavor-enhancing herbs like rosemary during the Easter season. Promote cilantro and parsley in Cinco de Mayo promotions as they are popular additions to salsa.
- Summer: Herbs add plenty of flavor to meat. Promote herbs as an easy way to add flavor to meat without adding calories. Include herbs in summertime grilling promotions.
- Customers looking for fresh herbs may know exactly what they want, but consumers just trying out cooking with fresh herbs could need some help. Clearly label all of your herbs so consumers go home with what they came for. Include some of this information:
- Arugula must be refrigerated or it will turn yellow. It has a peppery, slightly smoky taste and goes well with Mediterranean foods such as olives, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and olive oil.
- Basil works well with tomatoes, squash, cabbage, beans, pasta, poultry, pesto or spaghetti sauce, pizza or seafood. Handle basil with care as its leaves are delicate. Basil blends well with garlic, lemon, fennel, marjoram, oregano, thyme and curry.
- Bay leaves are perfect for soups, sauces or stews. The bay leaves’ flavor mellows with cooking.
- Chervil tastes good in raw dishes like salad or can be added to stews, fish, steamed vegetables, salad dressings, meat dishes, savory sauces and egg dishes. Chervil makes a great chopped garnish.
- Chives can be used in any recipe where a milder onion flavor is needed. They go great with fish, chicken, egg dishes and baked potatoes. Chives are a good seasoning for steamed vegetables.
- Cilantro adds a southwestern flavor to dishes, especially salsa. It is used in Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine. Cilantro keeps longer with the roots attached.
- Use baby dill for seasoning cooked dishes. Plants should resemble fresh salad greens. Use baby dill as a garnish. Add dill at the end of a dish’s cooking time.
- Fennel has a licorice taste and works best with fish and lamb. It can also be tasty in omelets, salads and herb breads.
- Fiddlehead ferns can be served like asparagus or artichoke hearts with melted butter and lemon or a light cream, cheese or hollandaise sauce. Fiddlehead ferns should be used right away.
- Garlic chive has a distinct garlic flavor. It can be used in both fresh and cooked dishes and stored in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week in the refrigerator.
- Horseradish root has a hot, spicy taste. It can be blended with vinegar and used as a condiment. Add it just before eating so the taste does not dissipate. It can be stored in the refrigerator wrapped first in a slightly damp towel, then covered by a dry towel.
- Marjoram is a versatile herb that can be used as a substitute for oregano or sage. It can be used in stuffing, fish dishes, or as salad seasoning. It also works well as a vegetable seasoning.
- Mint makes a great garnish for summertime drinks, fruit platters and frozen desserts. Mint is excellent when paired with lamb and is found in many Middle Eastern, Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
- Oregano is a favorite for spicing up tomato dishes, but it also pairs well with meats, poultry, salad dressings, beans, shellfish and vegetables. It generally is used to season Mexican, Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes.
- Parsley is best known as a garnish, but it can be used in cooking. Flat leaf parsley holds up better to cooking. Parsley also works well as a deodorizer.
- Rosemary works well with beef, pork, lamb, fish and veal dishes. Cook it at least 10 minutes to release its flavor. Rosemary sprigs can be added to grilling coals to create a great grilled taste.
- Sage is most often used in stuffing. Use it sparingly so its strong taste doesn’t overpower the food. Sage is a natural salt substitute.
- Savory has a peppery clovelike taste that can be overpowering. A little goes a long way. It is good in soups and as a meat and poultry seasoning.
- Sorrel has a sharp, lemony taste. Use it in soups and sauces or as a salad green or vegetable.
- Tarragon has a spicy flavor with a hint of anise and mint. Use it on poultry, fish and shellfish as it can help remove the fishy taste from fish.
- Thyme has a clove-like taste that enhances Creole and Cajun dishes. It can also be used to season meat and in poultry stuffing. Its strong flavor requires sparing use.
- Display herbs properly to keep them looking fresh. Refrigerate fresh herbs and provide space between them to keep air moving.
- Don’t mist bagged herbs and keep all herbs away from ethylene-producing vegetables as ethylene will cause herbs to turn yellow.
- Rotate herbs frequently.
- Create herb bundles to encourage new consumers to purchase fresh herbs.
- For poultry dishes, bundle a celery stalk with a sprig of fresh parsley, thyme, marjoram, tarragon and a bay leaf and tie in a cheesecloth bag.
- For game birds, add six juniper berries to the bundle. Tie together sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, savory, mint and parsley for lamb dishes.
- For beef stews, add orange peel and remove the mint. For pork dishes, bundle sprigs of fresh sage, thyme and marjoram. Bundled fresh dill, tarragon and lemon zest are great for seafood dishes.
- Add a secondary herb display near the meat department as fresh herbs are a great way to season meat. Educate employees in both the meat and produce departments about herb combinations so they can encourage shoppers to pair meat and herbs together.
- Place herbs except for basil in the cooler as soon as you receive them. If you plan to store them, wash them, pat them dry and wrap loosely in plastic wrap or put in a plastic bag. They’ll keep for about a week.
- Freezing herbs is a great way to save money as you can order them in bulk. Either cut or whole leaves can be frozen. For mint, oregano, parsley or sage, remove leaves from stems before freezing. Freeze chervil, dill, marjoram, rosemary, savory, tarragon and thyme on their stems. Freeze basil in ice cube trays after rinsing it in olive oil. Label all packages with the herb name and date of freezing. They’ll keep for up to one year. The flavor will remain fresh, although there may be a slightly softer texture in the leaves.
- Some herbs have a strong flavor and can easily overpower the flavor in your dish. Be vigilant when using strong herbs like cilantro, rosemary and sage. Moderate herbs include basil, dill, fennel, tarragon, marjoram, savory and thyme. Delicate herbs include chervil, chives and parsley.
- Cooking alters the flavor of many herbs. Overcooking will dilute the flavor. Add herbs last to hot dishes. This preserves their flavor.
- Use 2 teaspoons of a fresh herb per three- or four-serving recipe of meat, vegetables or fish.
In The Backroom
Consumer packs Most herbs are shipped in packages containing 6, 12 or 30 bunches, bags or tubs. RPC 6409, 6411, 6413 Foodservice packs One-pound units are sold most often with some 1⁄4- and 1⁄2-lb. units.
There are no official U.S. Department of Agriculture grades for herbs, but many growers have rigid shipping guidelines. Herbs are judged on flavor, appearance, leaf shape and to a lesser extent, color.
Temperature: oregano, 48 to 50 F, 9 to 10 C; basil, 50 to 55 F, 10 to 12.8 C – temperatures lower than 48 F, 9 C, will cause basil to turn black; all others, 38 to 42 F, 3.3 to 5.8 C. Typical shelf life: bag, five or more days; tub, seven or more days when stored at proper temperatures. Do not mist herbs; packaged herbs retain moisture. Watering herbs creates condensation in the bags, causing premature deterioration. However, if you must remove herbs from bags for display purposes, it’s important to keep them damp. If herbs become dry from air exposure, leaf damage will occur. Fennel stalks do not store well – only three to four days. They quickly dry out and lose their flavor. For optimum keeping, cut the stalks from the bases, wrap separately in plastic and set in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If fennel seems listless, soak in ice water in the refrigerator for an hour or two. Fiddlehead ferns do not store well. Although they do not spoil rapidly, they quickly lose their fresh flavor and elastic tone. Put herbs, except basil, in the cooler as soon as they arrive. For basil, oregano and mint, black spotting is a sign of deterioration. Yellowing is an indication of deterioration in all other herbs. Keep fresh herbs in their original plastic shipping bags in your cooler. The closed bag creates a stable environment for herbs. Should herbs ever arrive heated, open bags to release excess moisture. Leave open about two to three hours, then close so as not to dehydrate the herbs.