How to Create Your Own Herb Blends

Use the Herbs You Grow to Create Seasoning Blends

Making Your Own Herb Blends
Photo: bluescreen

Herbs are some of the easiest edible plants to grow and they are even easier to make use of. Cooking with fresh herbs in the summer is what helps make summer fare so incomparable. However, homegrown herbs that you've dried or frozen will still taste more flavorful than dried herbs from a jar. It is easy to do and definitely worth the effort.

If you’ve dried and saved your herb garden bounty, consider giving some of those homegrown culinary herbs away as gifts. After all, not every cook has access to an herb garden. You can either package up individual herbs in lovely canisters, jars, or bags or mix up a custom herb blend that will have your chef friends naming recipes after you. And it's always nice to include a recipe or two with ways to use your herbs.

Even if you don’t have all the ingredients from your own garden, you still have two more options:

  1. Amend what you do have with some herbs from the store. Be sure to buy good quality herbs. You don't want to ruin your homemade blends with discount bulk herbs. OR
  2. Make containers of the individual herbs you have in abundance. This season’s oregano, mint, and thyme from your garden will beat out the faded, dried herbs your friends have forgotten in the back of their cabinets.

Some foods pair best with specific herbs, but herb mixes are about your own personal taste and preference. Don't be afraid to experiment and find your favorites. Some classic blends to riff on include:

Herbes de Provence

Although this regional mixture is becoming widely available, many people still don’t know what’s in it. Herbes de Provence is a fancy way of saying the herbs that are native and commonly grown in the Provence region of southern France. You may not live in Provence, but you probably grow all these herbs in your own garden.

Just as there is no one fixed recipe for B-B-Q sauce or garam masala, there is no one set mixture for an Herbes de Provence blend. However, it traditionally contains basil, bay leaf, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, and thyme, with thyme at the forefront. Lavender is often included in the mix, although a little lavender goes a long way in cooking. Most cooks adjust the proportions according to their own tastes, but here is a sample recipe.

  • 2 Tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried marjoram
  • ½ Tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon dried summer savory
  • 2 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoon lavender flowers
  • 1 bay leaf

Pasta Seasoning

Again, pasta recipes are very personal things, but who doesn't like to experiment? And since just about everyone eats pasta, this would always be a welcome gift. They can use it for tossing into sauces or for making an instant sauce by simply tossing the mix with some warm pasta and olive oil. It does wonders for pizza, too.

  • 4 Tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 1 bay leaf

Barbecue Rub for Meat or Vegetables

Something meat and veggie lovers can agree on; spices make everything taste better. This blend can be dry rubbed on all kinds of meat, from beef to chicken, to pork. You could also mix it with oil and marinate either meat or vegetables, or you can just toss it in with your vegetables while they stew, stir-fry, or grill.

  • 3 Tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon dried savory
  • 1 teaspoon dried fennel
  • 2 bay leaves

Be sure to let the receiver know how versatile it is. There's nothing worse than getting a seasoning blend and having no idea what to do with it. Something about herbs blended together can make the most experienced cook second-guess themselves in the kitchen.

Airtight containers will help your herbs retain their freshness. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from heat. And use them often. Even dried herbs don' last forever.

To get the most flavor from your blends, rub them between your fingers as you add them to a dish. This will release their essential oils and fragrance.

If you're giving them as a gift, don’t forget to include a recipe or two and maybe even some seeds and growing tips.