Dried Herbs vs. Fresh
The ability to step outside the kitchen door and snip fresh herbs and gather fresh spices is a dream come true for any chef or gardener, but the reality for many is that this is simply not feasible. While it is possible to grow some plants indoors, without additional artificial light many plants will languish from lack of adequate sunlight. The limited availability of indoor and outdoor space to plant or set out pots, unfavorable site conditions (shady, not enough sun available), the wrong season for growing or lack of desire and time available to tend to the plants are some of the reasons many people rely on store bought fresh herbs and spices.
A few issues to consider when purchasing fresh herbs and spices from a local source is that once plants are harvested, they lose flavor rapidly and by the time you purchase them they are already several days old. Buying fresh herbs and spices tends to be expensive as well, especially when you consider that you need to use them up right away or freeze them quickly to avoid losing your investment. Availability can also be a concern because the selection of fresh is often limited to the more common seasonally grown herbs and spices. I love to use fresh herbs and spices when possible, but I am very thankful for the diverse assortment of dried herbs and spices available to purchase from online and retail specialty stores.
There are many advantages to using dried herbs and spices. The most obvious is that they are readily available year round and although they will lose flavor over time, they can easily last 6 months and maybe up to a year when stored in a cool, dark place away from humidity (not over the stove). Buy small quantities, only what you think you will use in about 6 months. Always test the freshness of your spices by smelling them to make sure they retain the flavorful aroma and crush them right before adding them to a dish to release the flavor. Dried herbs and spices can also be added much earlier in the cooking process than fresh herbs and spices, allowing more time to slowly release their flavor. But without exception, the most exciting reason to seek out dried herbs and spices to cook with today is the enormous selection available to us from around the world.
So it is important to remember that whether you use fresh or dried herbs and spices depends on your individual situation, but it is reassuring to know that the magnificent world of exotic flavor is at our fingertips in the form of dried herbs and spices. This allows us the privilege of experiencing many cuisines from far away cultures on a whim. Never in the history of man have we had such easy access to so many exotic ingredients at such a reasonable price than we do today. Cooking with herbs and spices can become the method by which we can experience a culinary adventure around the world.