As part of HuffPost’s “Reclaim” project, HuffPost Taste will focus the entire month of July on simple ways you can reduce food waste in your own home.
Most people cut the leaves off fresh herbs and toss the rest. This is a big mistake. Not only are you throwing out good food, but money too. The stems are often times just as flavorful as the leaves― if not more ― plus they’re entirely edible, too.
You should be working fresh herb stems into your recipes. It’s easy enough to do, and will double the amount of mileage you can get out of a bunch of parsley. Or cilantro. Or thyme (as long as your stem is still fresh, and not woody). Here’s how you do it:
1. Add stems to broths.
Herb stems are perfect for broth and stock. They release all their flavor, are tossed at the end, and no one is the wiser. Plus, stems freeze well, too. So if you have a bag of food scraps in the freezer waiting to be turned into stock, just toss these in with the rest. Thyme and rosemary stems are perfect, but parsley is a great addition, too.
2. Blend stems into pestos. Basil, parsley and cilantro are three herbs that lend themselves well to pesto. Use just the tender stems of these herbs and save the woodier ones for stocks. Keep in mind that parsley stems have a stronger flavor than the leaves, so this will be a potent spread.
3. Add stems to guacamole. We’re talking cilantro here. Chop them up and add them to your next batch of guac, just like you would the leaves. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have been doing this all along.
4. Bake them into quiche.
Dill, tarragon and parsley work great here. Just chop them up small and add them to the quiche before baking.
5. Chop them up and add to salads. Chopped salads are a perfect way to use up fresh herb stems ― and tabouleh is a no brainer ― but any salad will get a burst of flavor if topped with fresh herb stems. Naturally, you’ll only want to use the softer stems ― no rosemary or thyme stems for fresh salads, please.
6. Infuse oils. We recently learned that we could infuse oils with olive pits to make a more flavorful oil, but you can also use herb stems. Woody stems like rosemary and thyme are perfect for infusing.
7. Use them to pickle.
Adding flavor to pickle brine is never a bad idea. And using up herb stems are the perfect way to do that. Dill stems are a great idea here. But so are cilantro and parsley. Just get creative.