Best Way to Chop Herbs
Using fresh herbs in cooking adds wonderful flavor to your favorite dishes. However, not having the optimal kitchen utensil for cutting herbs can make it a time-consuming chore. Many cooks find using a regular paring knife doesn't do the trick as the herbs tend to stick to the knife blade and require frequent wiping of a sharp edge.
My favorite kitchen tool is an Italian chopping knife called a mezzaluna. It cuts any herb with ease. Kitchen shears also work well for this task. Either of these tools would make a great stocking stuffer for the favorite chef on your Christmas list.
Italian Chopping Knife: Single or Double Blade
The mezzaluna is a wonderful invention that chops fresh herbs almost effortlessly with a solid blade. It comes in two main varieties: a single or double blade. Most blades are either nine- or ten-inch stainless steel blades with small handles on both ends. The handles allow the cook to easily rock the blades back and forth on the herbs to cut them neatly.
Some mezzalunas come with bowls to chop herbs in, but they can also be used on a flat cutting board. If you are using a recipe that calls for several chopped fresh herbs, this is an efficient tool as you can use the mezzaluna to chop them all at the same time, easily melding the flavors. A double mezzaluna is especially helpful in this instance when you need to chop an abundance of herbs. The double blades speed up the process.
The Origin of the Mezzaluna
In Italian, mezza means half and luna means moon, so the name of the tool is derived from the shape of the blade. According to Wikipedia, the kitchen device is called a hachoir in French. It is commonly referred to as an herb knife or herb chopper in the United States.
Kitchen Herb Shears
A pair of kitchen herb shears also works very well with fresh herbs. This gadget works best with herbs like scallions and chives, or with stiff, coarse herbs such as rosemary. The leafy herbs tend to stick to the blades and are better cut with a mezzaluna. The benefit of the kitchen shears is that it allows the chef to snip the herbs precisely. It also saves having to wash an extra bowl or cutting board. Most kitchen shears come in stainless steel blades that separate for ease of cleaning.
The Five Easiest Herbs to Grow
Even if you do not have a green thumb, you can still grow herbs with ease in a small area of your backyard garden or in containers. Many cooks grow a small indoor herb garden in a window container. Here are the easiest herbs to grow.
- Rosemary: This perennial plant is so hearty that it quickly grows into a bush. It thrives in sun or shade and is virtually immortal.
- Basil: Sweet basil is an incredibly flavorful herb. It is an annual plant that grows in shade or sun and is very heat tolerant. It cannot be planted until after the last frost.
- Dill: Wonderful on fish or tuna melt sandwiches, this shade-loving annual grows quickly. For best results, trim the plant back often or else it will need stakes to keep it off the ground.
- Cilantro: The fantastic aroma of this fresh herb will bring your senses to life. Cilantro is an annual plant that loves sun, but once the temperatures get too hot, it can be difficult to grow. You can usually get eight to ten weeks of enjoyment before this herb begins to flower.
- Oregano: There are many varieties of oregano, but the best one to plant for flavorful cooking is the Greek oregano plant. This perennial loves the sun. Cut the stems to the ground to encourage more stem growth and a fuller-looking plant.