Wondering which herbs are in Herbs de Provence?

If you’ve dabbled in cooking, especially French cuisine, you’ve almost certainly seen recipes calling for Herbs de Provence. The term refers simply to a combination of herbs, many of which are grown in the Provence region of France. In the 1970s, American companies began to market a specific blend, so you may see a bottle labeled Herbs de Provence in the spice aisle of your local market. There is not, however, a trade or regulatory designation for Herbs de Provence, and many recipes will vary the specific components.

In most cases, if a recipe calls for Herbs de Provence, it means oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram and savory. The blend is generally dried though fresh herbs can be used instead. If you use fresh herbs, you’ll likely need a smaller quantity.

Though you can buy ready made blends, it’s better to buy the component herbs individually and combine them to suit the dish in question.

Variations on Herbs de Provence

A quick google search will suggest that in addition to the five herbs just listed, basil, tarragon, lavender and fennel seed. In fact, almost every post, article or product using the term has a slightly different definition. The best way to navigate this is to research the recipe or dish you’re making. Look for descriptions of the key flavors. Read multiple recipes, especially those found in reputable cookbooks. Understanding the dish and it’s typical preparation and flavor can help you select a blend of herbs that will fit the bill.

When in doubt, start with the basics and just add oregano, rosemary and thyme. Taste the food and then add other herbs if you wish. It’s pretty easy to add herbs right up to the end of cooking but almost impossible to remove lingering flavors that don’t belong.

The more you cook with herbs, the more your knowledge of their flavors and their impacts on a dish will develop. This will help you select the best herbs, in the correct proportions, for the food at hand.

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