Hints & TIps

Woman enjoying the aroma of fresh herbs outside

Happy Herbs: Plants with Mood-Boosting Properties

Happy Herbs: Plants with Mood-Boosting Properties 1024 569 R&G Fresh

Did you know that planted snugly in the calendar each March is International Day of Happiness? It’s a day when everyone is officially encouraged to “find positive ways to look after ourselves and each other.”

That got us thinking about all the times we’ve turned to fresh herbs and plants to help us relax, smile, and spread a little joy in our lives.

We don’t just mean using herbs in cooking – though our produce is definitely great for that! Instead, we’ll be looking here at the best plants to boost your mood and how you can use them to do just that.

Herbs with mood-boosting properties

The International Day of Happiness website gives three positive steps we can all take when facing difficult times: keep calm, stay wise, and be kind.

With that in mind, we’ve sorted the plant suggestions below to help you do all three!

bottle of lemongrass oil and fresh lemongrass

Keep calm

There are many things in life we can’t control, but the way we respond to stressful situations is something we can.

One thing you might like to try in high-stress circumstances is brewing a cup of thyme tea. Thyme contains a compound called carvacrol which naturally calms and supports your nervous system. That makes sipping a thyme tea in the office, or at bedtime after a long day, both equally good ideas. You can find a great recipe here.

Another of the best plants to boost your mood is lemongrass. You can use it to make lemongrass oil, which has a fresh, citrusy scent that’s both clean and calming, helping to relieve irritability, prevent drowsiness, and even relax muscles when rubbed onto the skin. Best of all, it’s also really simple to make your own lemongrass oil. There are lots of recipes out there, but we found this one from Times of India simple to follow and highly effective.

Fresh Thyme on a plate

Stay wise

There’s a famous quote by Shakespeare that says “Rosemary is for remembrance.” That’s backed up by a study by the Department of Psychology at Northumbria University, which found that rosemary can boost memory in people aged 65 and over by up to 15%.

Whether you opt for a live rosemary plant or a fresh rosemary diffuser, there are many wonderful ways to disseminate this memory-boosting plant’s woody, evergreen scent. You can even mix it with other herbs to create your own special blend of diffuser oils!

Fresh mint tea in glass

Be kind

That same study from Northumbria University also found that mint tea enhances both mood and cognition. That means you’ll be both happier and more alert after a cup or two, and better able to remember things like birthdays and anniversaries thanks to mint’s proven boost to long-term memory.

There are nearly endless numbers of mint tea recipes out there, but we like this rather simple one from BBC Good Food. We’re sure you’ll like it too.

The last of our plants with mood-boosting properties meanwhile is fresh root ginger. It’s packed with vitamin B6, which boosts energy levels, and magnesium, which can help to ward off depression. Ginger has even been known to settle an upset stomach! All of which makes it one of the best things for someone who’s feeling fatigued, a little down in the dumps, or simply somewhat under the weather.

Ginger is an incredibly versatile plant and lends itself surprisingly well to a calming herbal tea. We especially enjoy this recipe from Taste of Home, which you’ll need to brew in a slow cooker over two to three hours.

Which herbs help your mood?

So that’s our blog inspired by this month’s International Day of Happiness: five herbs and other plants with mood-boosting properties. Are there any we might have mentioned? And how do you prefer to use them? Let us know in the comments below.

To find out more about using our herbs and ingredients in all sorts of creative ways, visit our fresh produce page or take a look at our blog, The Chopping Board.

birds eye view of man making cocktails with fresh herbs

Using Herbs and Ingredients in Drinks

Using Herbs and Ingredients in Drinks 1024 569 R&G Fresh

What goes into your favourite cocktail? If your automatic answer would be to list a selection of different types of alcohol… well, we’d forgive you!

The truth is that fresh herbs are an underrated, and often overlooked, but still rather key ingredient to some of the most popular concoctions around.

With plenty of occasions coming up, we can’t think of a better time to look at all the different ways to use herbs and ingredients in drinks.

How and when to use herbs in cocktails

As with any food or drink preparation, part of the success when using herbs and ingredients in drinks lies in pairing the right plants and liquor. The other part lies in preparing the herbs properly.

So before you begin mixing, here are the things we’d suggest you keep in mind:

Perfect pairings

Some drinks simply suit certain herbs perfectly. As a quick primer, those heaven-made matches include:

  • Coriander and tequila
  • Dill and vodka
  • Rosemary with any sweet citrus concoction
  • Basil and gin
  • Mint with… well, almost everything! (More on how to use mint leaves in drinks a little later).

Muddle it up

Instead of crushing your herbs like too many overzealous bartenders at the end of a day-long shift, take care using the proper tools. A muddler is essential here, used with a gentle, firm pressing motion that bruises rather than grinds your ingredients.

Done right, muddling will bring the oils to the surface, allowing them to infuse into the other liquids, bringing out the full flavour of your herb(s) of choice.

orange cocktail with mint sprig

Awaken the aromas

This part is less ‘using herbs and ingredients in drinks’, and more on drinks!

Cocktail creation is less a science and more an artform, and that extends to the presentation aspect. Herbs can be a beautiful finishing touch to a cocktail – but for an extra flourish, make sure you release the scents locked inside the leaves.

You can do this through a process called Awakening, whereby you hold the leaves you’ve chosen and bring down your other hand upon them in a gentle slapping motion. If you’ve done it right, you should smell the aroma of your chosen herb begin to fill the room. That’s when you’re ready to use it as a garnish.

Some of our best herb-infused cocktail recipes

Mint

We’ll start with the obvious choice – and by far and away the most versatile. Fresh mint’s smooth, refreshing flavour makes it an ideal way to take the edge of sharper citrussy drinks. However, it also works when paired with a startling variety of other ingredients – from lemon or lime, to chocolate and cream.

Mojitos and juleps might be the most immediate choices for a recipe, but at the time of writing we wanted to keep the winter feel. So instead, check out this creamy and delicious Merry & Bright cocktail recipe from Mountain Cravings.

Basil

Aromatic and earthy in its more common green variety, but spicier and clove-like in its less common purple one, basil makes for a pungent and powerful cocktail ingredient.

One of the most unique we’ve tried is The Fallen Leaf, which muddles both garden green and coppery purple basil leaves before shaking them with white rum, lemon and honey. Visit Kitchen Konfidence for the full recipe and method.

Fresh ginger

Finely-grated fresh ginger goes down incredibly well in a cocktail, giving beverages a strong, spicy flavour.

In particular, ginger complements sour drinks rather nicely – such as in this Ginger Lime Whiskey Sour recipe by Delish. Incredibly easy to make, the method involves cooking up a ginger simple syrup in a saucepan, before adding the mixture to a cocktail shaker with bourbon, lime juice and, perhaps unexpectedly, an egg white! (Don’t worry, it emulsifies with the alcohol, making it safe to consume).

Rosemary

cocktail with fresh rosemary, peppercorns and cucumber

Used in the right amounts, rosemary can add richness and depth to a beverage. Of course, being a ‘hard’ herb, its strong flavour means rosemary can overpower the other flavours too – making it one to be especially careful with.

That flavour profile makes rosemary especially ideal for citrus-infused gin drinks. One such example is this gin-based Rosemary Gimlet from chef David Lebovitz.

Chillies

While our green, leafy produce might be a more obvious option in alcoholic beverages, our chillies can lend a nifty kick to any cocktail.

As recipes go, one of the simplest and most effective we’ve found is this mango, chilli and lime margarita from Taste. Blending tequila and lime juice with peeled fresh mangoes, sugar and half a fresh long red chilli, it’s a wonderfully fruity concoction with a little extra spice. (Our tip: cut slits into leftover chillies and slide one over the side of each glass as an extra-colourful garnish!).

Or for something a little creamier, Jamie Oliver’s frosty-looking boozy Christmas lemonade might go down a treat at New Year. Amongst its ingredients is a green jalapeno chilli, and just the one alcoholic ingredient: white rum (or alternatively Cahaca). Take out the latter and you can turn this into a tasty mocktail instead!

And that’s just a taster

As you can see, there are a number of ways to use fresh herbs in drinks. The only limit really is how creative (or possibly daring!) you’re willing to be.

If we’ve whetted your appetite, don’t stop there! The Spruce Eat’s blog ‘Using Herbs and Spices in Cocktails’ is full of more ways to use herbs and ingredients in drinks. Give it a read and turn opening your drinks cabinet into an adventure for the taste buds!

Feeling inspired? Visit our produce page to get an idea of the different herbs and ingredients you could add to your concoctions. Or head to The Chopping Board for our very own herb-infused food recipes.

Two wild boar marinated steaks with fresh herbs

When Should You Add Herbs to Your Cooking?

When Should You Add Herbs to Your Cooking? 1024 569 R&G Fresh

Using herbs in your cooking is a great way of enhancing the flavour of your food, but do you know how and when to use them?

Here’s a quick guide that explains everything you need to know about cooking with herbs!

How to cook with herbs

Before we explain the best way to cook with herbs, we first have to understand the difference between the two variations:

Woody herbs tend to have tougher leaves while soft herbs have thin, fragile leaves. Due to this difference, you need to add them to your meals at different times.

As well as this, both woody and tender herbs can be used fresh, dried or frozen, which also plays a part in when you should add them to your dish.

When to add fresh herbs to your cooking

Soft herbs

Tender herbs, as we explained earlier, have soft stems and delicate leaves. As a result, whilst they impart robust flavours initially, the intensity can diminish with prolonged cooking.

For this reason, you should add soft herbs towards the end of the process, where they can deliver maximum flavour that doesn’t diminish due to heat damage.

Spicy pumpkin soup puree with ginger and herbs

Woody herbs

As mentioned before, woody herbs have tougher leaves and woody stems, so are much more robust. They are generally added during the cooking process and removed once the dish is ready. The heat helps the cells in the leaves to break down, so the fragrant oils can start interacting as the food cooks.

When to add frozen herbs to your cooking

Freezing herbs when they’re fresh is a great way to preserve them for future use. You can freeze them in oil, water or simply in the bag they came in.

Frozen woody herbs can be added early on in the cooking process, giving them plenty of time to thaw and infuse the dish.

Frozen soft herbs will defrost quicker, so you should add them a minute or so before you finish cooking, giving them time to warm up but not so much that it affects their flavour.

When to add herbs to uncooked dishes

Herbs can be used raw to enhance the taste of anything, including drinks, desserts and salads.

Salads, in particular, can be transformed from an ordinary plate of greens to something that smells and tastes delicious just by adding herbs.

If you are planning to use herbs at room temperature or served cold, you can add them as you prepare the dish.

Traditional Italian Pasta salad with herbs

If you’re a first-time herb user, you may find yourself worried about making mistakes, but don’t worry. Experimenting and learning is just part of the fun! The more you use them, the better your food will taste and you’ll get better with pairing different flavours together.

If you’re wondering which herbs to experiment with next, take a look at Our Produce section for inspiration. We also offer a selection of chillies and other ingredients to enhance your cooking, which may also get your creative juices flowing.

Do you have any questions about any of our fresh-cut herbs and ingredients? Please do get in touch with us and we will answer them for you.

fresh cut chives and mint

How to Store Your Fresh Cut Herbs & Ingredients So They Last Longer

How to Store Your Fresh Cut Herbs & Ingredients So They Last Longer 1024 569 R&G Fresh

The lockdown, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, affected many aspects of our lives.

One change was that people started experimenting with new recipes, some of which included fresh herbs, as was evidenced by the herb sales surge reported by Waitrose.

At R&G FRESH, we are passionate about encouraging people to use more fresh herbs and ingredients in cooking, so we are excited about this trend. However, we are also aware that you as a consumer want to make the most out of your purchase too.

That’s why we decided to offer our advice and expertise on how to store your fresh cut herbs and ingredients so they last longer.

Different types of fresh herbs

Before we talk about how to store fresh cut herbs, it’s important to understand the difference between hard herbs and soft herbs. The reason why this distinction is important is because the two types ‘behave’ quite differently from each other.

Understanding this difference allows us to treat them the right way, helping to prolong their freshness.

Soft herbs

bunch of basil and dill herbs

Soft, or tender, herbs have fleshy, delicate stems and a strong flavour that loses its intensity upon cooking, which is why these herbs are usually added at the end of the cooking process. Some examples of soft herbs are:

  • Coriander
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Lovage
  • Marjoram
  • Sorrel
  • Tarragon

Since they are quite fragile, they need to be treated differently from hard herbs.

Woody herbs

fresh cut hard herbs sage, rosemary and thyme

Hard, or woody, herbs are sturdier than their soft counterparts and are added to a dish during the cooking process, where they slowly release their flavour. Usually grown in warmer climates, these herbs have woody stems and tougher leaves that are resistant to moisture loss. As a result, they keep for much longer.

Woody herbs include:

  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Lime leaves
  • Lemongrass
  • Curry leaves
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon thyme

What are the factors that affect herb freshness?

Fresh herbs are still respiring after being harvested and as such, need certain conditions in which to thrive. When they were a part of a plant, they could manage their own conditions and remain healthy.

Here are the factors that affect herb freshness.

Light

Whilst plants need light for photosynthesis, fresh-cut herbs actually don’t require light. In fact, exposure to bright light can turn their leaves yellow as it damages the chlorophyll (the green pigment that is responsible for photosynthesis).

Oxygen

Again, while almost all living entities require oxygen, most cut herbs start turning brown if they are exposed to too much air.

Moisture

All fresh-cut herbs require an optimum amount of moisture to remain fresh. Too little and they start drying, but too much and they start rotting.

Temperature

Temperature plays a significant role in ensuring herb freshness. Too warm, and the metabolic rate goes up and the herbs start deteriorating at a faster rate. Too cold, and the water inside the cells freezes and damages the cell walls, leading to your fresh herbs becoming mushy.

The best temperature to store fresh herbs is 3° C to 5° C This is the temperature range inside refrigerators, making them the ideal place to keep your fresh produce.

With these factors in mind, here are our recommendations on how to store your fresh cut herbs so they last longer.

The best way to store fresh cut herbs

In the fridge

If you’re storing woody herbs in the fridge try to keep them in their original packaging, or in an airtight container.

As with woody herbs, soft herbs should be kept in their original packaging until they are needed. Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

The only exception here is basil, whose leaves start discolouring if the temperature is low. It should be kept out of the fridge, at room temperature, where it gets light but not direct sunlight.

Using these methods, you can store your fresh herbs for up to two weeks.

In the freezer

chopped up fresh herbs in ice cube tray

When using herbs as garnish, you want them looking fresh and beautiful so keeping them in the fridge is best. However, if they are going to be used in cooking, you want to preserve their flavour more than their appearance.

If that is the case, you can freeze any leftovers you may have.

To do that, simply remove them from their packaging, chop them, and put them in ice trays. You can pack in the chopped leaves alone or top them up with a flavourless oil (like sunflower oil) or water. Once frozen into cubes, you can pop them out of the tray and store them in freezer bags.

Out of the three options, you’ll get the best flavour if you use oil. However, you can freeze your herbs for weeks, if not months by placing them in a plastic bag.

Simply take out as many herb cubes as you need for the recipe and add to the dish as it cooks. The heat will melt the frozen cube, releasing the herb’s flavour into your food.

How to store fresh ingredients so they last longer

In addition to herbs, we offer a range of other ingredients that help you take your cooking to the next level. Here’s how to store some of them so they last longer.

Chillies

Freezing chillies is a great option. They defrost rapidly so can be used as fresh. To store chillies, take them out of their packaging and remove the stem and the ‘cap’ that joins it to the body, as this is where they start growing mouldy. These can then be stored in a container lined with a kitchen towel.

Root ginger

The best way to store root ginger is in the refrigerator without cutting it up. The skin of this rhizome keeps moisture in, allowing it to last for around three weeks.

If you want to store it for longer, you can freeze the root whole or mince it first. When freezing it whole, leave the skin on and put it in a freezer bag. You can then take it out when you need it and grate what you need without thawing it.

You can also mince or grate the ginger to get a paste, which you can portion out into an ice tray without any additional water or oil needed. Once frozen, the cubes can be transferred into a freezer bag and you can simply take out as many cubes as you need in your cooking.

Turmeric root

Whilst most commonly used as a dried powder, turmeric root has a much fresher flavour and will impart that same golden colour to the dish.

Like root ginger, it can be stored in the fridge or freezer after you’ve washed it well and dried it thoroughly. Since moisture leads to mould, drying it well is important. It also helps if you wrap it loosely in a kitchen towel and then put it in a bag before it goes into the fridge.

To freeze it, cut up the root into portion-sized chunks and put in a freezer bag. Squeeze out the excess air from the bag before sealing and freeze.

When you need it for a recipe, you can take out exactly as much as you need, without having to thaw the entire quantity.

Padrón peppers

Padrón peppers are also called ‘Spanish Roulette’ as most of them are sweet, but once in a while, you get one that is hot! These peppers can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag and best kept in the vegetable drawer.

Edible flowers

Edible flowers are very delicate, and normally don’t last more than two or three days. However, you can keep them for up to a week if you keep them on a damp paper towel inside a container in the fridge.

As you can see, storing fresh herbs and ingredients is quite easy. If done properly, you can enjoy their delicious flavour for several weeks.

If you’re interested in trying out different ingredients in your kitchen, our range of fresh produce might inspire you. For any questions you may have, please do get in touch.

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