What Do I Do with Leftover Herbs?


by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

So, you’re trying to eat more healthy foods. You’ve got some new cookbooks or are looking on websites for recipes, which inevitably brings you to purchase one of those bunches or clam shells of fresh herbs from the produce section. You chop your fresh tablespoon or so of herbs for the recipe (and, wow, it really does taste better!)… but, now, what do you do with all the leftover herbs?

Rosemary: This is one of the most versatile of culinary herbs! Toss whole sprigs into soups and stews, removing the woody stems before serving. Toss needles or whole sprigs with winter squash, potatoes, or other roasted vegetables. Tossing something on the grill? Use rosemary twigs as skewers to infuse flavor into vegetables, lamb, chicken, or other meats. I particularly like to toss rosemary needles and ground turmeric, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and olive oil with roasted chickpeas (great snack!), scrambled into eggs, or pan-fried with whole grains and veggies for a side dish. Tuck sprigs under the skin of chicken before roasting. Adventurous taste buds will enjoy steeping thinly sliced ginger, a lemon wedge, and a rosemary sprig, sweetened with honey, as tea. Still have leftovers? Lay the sprigs on your counter to air dry, then remove the needles and store for future use.

Parsley: Add fresh, finely chopped parsley to almost any savory dish (just at the end of cooking) to perk up the flavor. Add a handful to juices and smoothies, hummus and pesto. Still have leftovers? Puree parsley leaves with enough olive oil to make a paste, and store it in the freezer. Pull out a hunk to add to future recipes.

Thyme: You can use this herb almost exactly as you would rosemary (above), though the flavor is of course different. It offers a more hearty provincial flavor for peasant soups, classic vegetable and poultry dishes, and beans (especially white beans). Thyme is particularly nice with the ginger-lemon-honey tea.

Fennel: After you use the bulb in the recipe, save some of the stems and fronds. They made a fantastic herbal soda. Simply place a few stalks in a one-liter bottle and cover with plain seltzer water. Let sit for about 30 minutes or more, and enjoy within 24 hours. It’s wonderful alongside Italian dinners and helps with digestion as well. You can also simmer the stems and fronds in the cooking liquid for fish and shellfish (especially alongside lemon and/or garlic), carrots, and other veggies that benefit from a sweet anise flavor.

Basil: One word: eggs. Scramble your eggs with basil and (another word:) mozzarella. Of course, you can also use excess basil to make pesto – feel free to add other herbs, spinach, kale, etc. along with it – to use immediately or freeze for later use. Toss basil or pesto with pasta, tomatoes, vegetables, chicken, mozzarella, etc. Still have leftovers?  Puree basil leaves with enough olive oil to make a paste, and store it in the freezer. Pull out a hunk to add to future recipes.

Mint: The mint you find in stores is generally spearmint or a similar variety. This is perfect for herbal sodas.  Simply place a few sprigs in a one-liter bottle and cover with plain seltzer water. Let sit for about 30 minutes or more, and enjoy within 24 hours. This goes great with Mexican, African, and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fare and, like fennel, is great for digestion. This type of mint pairs very well with lime. Combine them for a mojito or “mockito” (sans booze). Put your mint leaves in a class with ice, shake together to release the flavor, add seltzer or soda, a wedge of lime, and light rum (optional). Try a leaf or two in your favorite spring roll, too.

What’s YOUR favorite way to use up extra herbs? Let us know by leaving a comment.