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The trend to slash fat and salt from recipes leaves many dishes bland and tasteless, but gourmands everywhere are turning to the vibrant assortment of herbs to liven up flavorless fare. The Institute of Food Technologists reports that 40 per cent of consumers are altering their diets to reduce cholesterol and trans fats. In pharmaceutical circles, the potential health benefits of using herbs to prevent disease are endless.

Here are a few tips to add flavor to your meals:

Herbaceous Handling

Buy: Choose fresh herbs over dry herbs because they are more flavorful and contain the most phytochemicals, says the American Institute for Cancer Research. Dried, they are still potent, though. Never buy packages, such as cardboard and some plastics, that allow air to reach the herbs; the packaging allows for volatile oils to escape.

Use: Woody herbs stand up to longer cooking times so can be added at the beginning. Those with soft leaves are best added toward the end of cooking to retain their flavor. Dried herbs are generally more concentrated than fresh herbs because they’ve been dehydrated. However, some herbs, such
as coriander, chives and parsley, tend to take on a subtler flavor once dried. When substituting dry herbs for fresh, use one third of the fresh herb amount. Use dried herbs within six months to a year.

Store: Store fresh herbs loosely in a punctured plastic bag with stems wrapped in damp paper towel and refrigerate. Store dry mixtures in glass containers. Keep in a cool, dry place away from light and heat.

Prep and Chop: Strip leaves off woody herbs and those with lots of stalk before chopping with a sharp blade.

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