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HERBS

Listed below are some herbs commonly used in Finnish cooking and in the recipes of this site.

In Finland and the other Nordic countries, most fresh herbs are nowadays sold year round as "pot herbs", planted with their roots intact in tiny round pots with soil. Most of these herbs are grown using hydroponic method and have been commercially produced in Finland since the mid-1980s.

Besides those listed below, other fresh herbs available in well-equipped Finnish grocery stores include different basil varieties (cinnamon, lemon, red/purple, Thai, etc), lavender, lovage, perilla/shiso, purslane, red-veined dock, watercress, wheatgrass, green pea shoots, sunflower shoots, etc. Note that some products are only available seasonally.

See also:

Quick and easy way to chop herbs

Figure 1 Arrow Figure 2 Arrow Figure 3
Place the herbs in a regular drinking glass   With sharp scissors, cut and chop the herbs until a suitable consistency is obtained



Dill
(Anethum graveolens)

Dill

Dill weed, also called baby dill, is probably the most used and loved herb in the Nordic countries. It is a vitally important ingredient in a multitude of Scandinavian recipes, from crayfish, shrimp, herring, veal and fish dishes (especially gravlax) to salad dressings, soups, boiled new potatoes and pickles.

Crown dill (in picture below) is dill that has been harvested after blossoming. Compared to baby dill, crown dill has a stronger and more aromatic, anise-like flavour. Its flower heads and seeds are mainly used to flavour crayfish cooking liquid and various pickles.

Crown dill

Always use fresh dill, unless a recipe specifically calls for dried dill to be used. The two are not interchangeable.

 
Parsley
(Petroselinum crispum)

There are three different types of parsley:

Curly parsley

  • Curly parsley (P. crispum var. crispum), with crinkly leaves, is the most often used type in the Nordic countries. It is used to flavour broths, soups, compound butters, sauces, etc, but mainly it is used to garnish food, open-face sandwiches, etc.

Flat-leaf parsley

  • Flat-leaf parsley (P. crispum var. neapolitanum), also called Italian parsley, is more used in central and southern European countries. Italian parsley has more flavour than curly parsley.

Preferably use the stronger flavoured Italian parsley in seasoning food and the more decorative curly parsley in garnishing food.


Basil
(Ocimum basilicum)

Basil

Basil is a highly fragrant and aromatic herb. There are numerous types of basil available. According to the variety, the colour of the leaves may vary from green to purple, and the flavour may have a hint of lemon, cinnamon, jasmine, thyme or camphor in it.

In Finland, basil is often used to season Mediterranean type dishes, like tomato and pasta dishes, pizzas and salads.

Sage
(Salvia officinalis)

Sage

Sage has a strong, slightly camphorated flavour. It is especially suitable for seasoning game, liver and blood dishes or fatty fish and meat dishes, like pork and goose.

In Finland, sage is mainly used to flavour German, Italian and Provençal type dishes.


Rosemary
(Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary

The narrow leaves of rosemary resemble spruce or pine needles. Even the strong scent of rosemary is similar to the scent of pine or juniper.

Rosemary has a pungent, slightly camphorated flavour, which goes well with lamb, game, poultry and other meat dishes, pasta dishes, cheese dishes, stews, onion and potato dishes and other vegetable dishes, like root vegetable gratins. Flavourful oil is obtained by steeping a twig of rosemary in olive oil.

Thyme
(Thymus vulgaris)

Sprigs of thyme

In picture above: fresh, mature thyme with woody stalks.

Thyme is a highly fragrant and flavourful herb rich in essential oil. It is used to season various meat, game, poultry and fish dishes, savoury pies, stews, salads and dressings and vegetable dishes containing tomatoes, onions, potatoes, peas, pulses, mushrooms, etc.

There are several varieties of thyme, one of which is the lemon-scented thyme.

In picture below: young, fresh thyme with soft stalks.

Thyme


Oregano
(Origanum vulgare)

Oregano

Oregano, also known as wild marjoram, is native to northern Europe.

The flavour of oregano is similar to that of its relative, sweet marjoram (see right), only slightly stronger and bitterer.

Oregano is used to flavour many Mediterranean dishes, particularly tomato dishes and sauces, pizza and pasta dishes, as well as meat and fish dishes.

Marjoram
(Origanum majorana)

Marjoram

Marjoram, also known as sweet marjoram, is believed to be native to North Africa and the Mediterranean. Its flavour is more mellow than that of its relative, oregano (see left).

Marjoram is used to flavour various meat, game, fish, seafood, vegetable, tomato and pea dishes.


Tarragon
(Artemisia dracunculus)

Tarragon

Tarragon has a delicate taste, slightly resembling that of anise. It is especially suited to flavour all kinds of vegetable, fish and egg dishes, but also chicken, game and other meat dishes, as well as mustard, vinegar and sauces, like béarnaise and tartare sauce.

Tarragon is widely used in French cuisine.

Coriander
(Coriandrum sativum)

Coriander

Coriander plant, also known as cilantro or Arab, Greek or Chinese parsley, has a strong, pungent smell, which some people may find unpleasant. In Finland, fresh coriander leaves are mainly used to flavour all kinds of Latin American, Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian dishes.

Coriander seeds are used in seasoning sausage meats, game and vegetable dishes, and mixed in oriental spice mixtures.


Chervil
(Anthriscus cerefolium)

Chervil

The light green leaves of chervil resemble parsley leaves. They have a strong scent and a refined, slightly sweetish and delicate taste, reminiscent of anise.

Mainly grown in Germany, Denmark and Norway, chervil is used both as a seasoning and a leafy vegetable. It is added to soups, salads, sauces and vegetable gratins. Pureed soup is also made from the leaves.

Another variety of chervil is the sweet sicely (Myrrhis odorata). Otherwise similar to chervil, sweet cicely has bigger and rougher leaves.

Savory
(Satureja hortensis)

Savory

There are two varieties of savory, the more commonly used summer savory (Satureja hortensis) and the winter savory (Satureja montana).

Savory has a slightly peppery, strong taste, resembling somewhat mint and thyme. It is used to flavour liver, blood, vegetable and cabbage dishes, sausages and pulses. Winter savory is mostly used to flavour ewes' and goats' milk cheeses.

In former times, savory was used as a cheaper substitute for pepper.


Mint
(Mentha spp.)

Mint

Of the many mint species, the two among the most popular are the strong tasting peppermint (Mentha piperita) and the spearmint (Mentha spicata).

Mint is used to flavour a multitude of savoury and sweet dishes, jellies, confections and beverages.

Lemon balm
(Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm

Lemon balm has a slight scent and flavour of lemon. Much like mint, lemon balm leaves are used to flavour both savoury and sweet dishes and beverages.

Lemon balm is suited to flavour pungent dishes, like Asian curries and sauces. It can be used in salads, fish dishes, fruit salads, ice creams, sorbets, milk shakes, iced teas, etc.


Bay leaf
(Laurus nobilis)

Fresh bay leaves

Leaves of the sweet bay tree are used fresh (in picture above) or dried (in picture below) as flavouring, especially in simmered dishes.

Dried bay leaves

In Finland, bay leaves are mostly used dried to flavour bouillons, soups, stews, casseroles and various fish and vegetable pickles.

Dried bay leaves give stronger flavour than fresh ones. Increase the amount of bay leaves in a recipe, if you are replacing dried leaves with fresh ones.

Nettle
(Urtica dioica)

Nettle shoots

Nettle can be used in cooking much in the same way as spinach. Compared to spinach, nettle is even richer in iron and contains the same amount of vitamins A and C.

Young nettle shoots

Young nettles (in picture above) are picked in early summer while their stems are still soft. Nettles have stinging hairs, which in contact with skin release irritating liquid, developing a temporary itching rash. Older nettles are more irritating, so protective gloves should be used when picking them. Cooking renders nettles non-irritating and safe to consume. It should be noted though, that nettles, especially those growing beside compost piles etc, may contain a high level of dangerous nitrates.

In Finland, young nettle is usually eaten braised, mixed in crêpe or bread batters or made into creamy soup. It may also be used to stuff oven-baked fish and omelettes.


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