The Fragile Herbs

Some herbs are just more delicate than others. I call them the fragile herbs. They bruise easily, they

don’t like the cold, yet they shrink from the sun. Fortunately, they make up for all that fragility with a

huge flavour punch!

These are the most commonly used herbs for most people.



Other notes


Garnishes on savoury foods; in scrambled eggs, in tabbouleh salad (see recipe) and as part of a bouquet garni* in soups, stocks or stews.


mint and spearmint

Add to cold water to flavour it or to boiling water to make mint tea, use in tabbouleh, sweet Asian salad dressing (see recipe), and as a garnish for desserts.

Mint and spearmint can also be preserved into syrups.

Mint helps with digestion.


Basil is common in Italian, Mediterranean and southeast Asian dishes. Use it in soup, salads, to make pesto (see recipe) and as a garnish on coconut-based curries.

Basil will turn black if it gets cold. Never put it in the fridge. 


Impart a light licorice flavour to salad dressings, sauces – particularly Bearnaise sauce, and in seafood chowder (see recipe).

Fill a bottle of white vinegar with fresh, clean tarragon to preserve the herb and create a flavour-infused dressing.

All of these herbs are easy to grow outside from late spring until the first frost or in containers inside. They can all be used fresh or dried. Mint, spearmint and tarragon are perennial herbs.


Always store these herbs fresh at room temperature. If you’re not going to use them the day you cut the fresh herbs, store the herbs with their stems in a glass of water.   

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* For soups and stocks, you can make a bouquet garni – a palm-sized bundle of different herbs gathered together and added to the food as it’s cooking. At the end of the cooking time, the bouquet garni is removed and in this way imparts all the flavours of the herbs without adding any leaves, stems, or greenery.   

Some of My Favourite Recipes that Highlight the Flavours of Fragile Herbs


Murphy’s Seafood Chowder

Serves 6-8 



1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup turnip, diced

1 cup celery, diced



1lb cod fillets, skinned, boneless, cut in 1 ½” cubes; fresh or frozen and thawed

You can use any white groundfish fillets or trimmings

1/2lb lobster meat and scallops; cut small approximately ½” x1/2”

Try other combinations of any seafood (mussels, lobster, scallops, shrimp) cut into small pieces approximately ½” x ½”.


Chowder Base

½ cup flour

½ cup butter

½ cup onion, finely chopped

3 cups milk (or cream)


2 Tbsp dried tarragon or 1/3 cup fresh tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add 3 cups of water to a saucepan and add the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook over medium heat until al dente, (still firm, not soft), approximately 10-15 minutes.   

  2. When cooked, strain the vegetables but retain the vegetable water in another bowl for the cream Set both the vegetables and the vegetable water aside.

  3. Add cubed fish to another saucepan and fill the saucepan with water just to the level of the fish. Do not cover the fish with water since the fish will create its own liquid during cook.

  4. Cook gently so the fish is just cooked but not falling apart, approximately 7 minutes.
  5. When cooked strain the fish and retain the cooking water for the cream sauce in another bowl. Set both the fish and its cooking water aside.
  6. To make the chowder base, melt the butter in a large stock pot.
  7. Add the onions to sweat in the butter, and cook until the onions are translucent, soft, and sweet, approximately 3 minutes.
  8. Add the flour to the onions and butter. Stir consistently and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.
  9. Whisking constantly, slowly add in the milk and heat thoroughly until a thick consistency is achieved.
  10. Then add in the fish cooking water. Typically, you will use all of the fish stock. Then add the vegetable water until your chowder base is creamy.
  11. Add the vegetables and fish to the chowder base and stir gently.
  12. Add the tarragon and some salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5-10 minutes before serving



Makes 1 ¾ cup

1 cup (45g) basil leaves, washed and dried

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup (40g) pine nuts (you can substitute almonds for the pine nuts or simply omit the nuts)  

1 cup (125g) parmesan cheese, grated

¾ cup (175ml) extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Using a food processor, puree the basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan with 2-3 tbsp olive oil. 

  1. With the blade turning, slowly add the remaining oil so the sauce emulsifies.  

  1. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Use immediately. You can keep any leftover pesto in a sealed, glass container for up to 30 days in your fridge or 6 months in your freezer.



Let your imagination run wild with this tangy, spicy, fresh, sweet and fruity vinaigrette. I recommend a cold salad of cooked rice noodles, shredded cabbage, red pepper sliced thinly, cantaloupe or mango slices and toasted cashews topped with this vinaigrette.

Makes 1/2 cup

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp Java Jack’s Peach Cantaloupe Marmalade

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp hot sauce

2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk all the ingredients together and add the mint last.

  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Parsley and Mint


Tabbouleh is a hearty, Middle Eastern Salad that uses parsley the way Western cooks would use lettuce. Mint, another fragile herb, adds freshness to this delicious dish. 

For the dressing

cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, grated 

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp ground coriander

1 pinch cinnamon


For the salad 

3 cups curly parsley, finely chopped  (about 2 bunches) 

1 cup English cucumber, diced 

1 cup tomato cored and diced 

cup cooked bulgur wheat*

cup fresh mint, finely chopped 

2 green onions finely chopped  


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, coriander, and cinnamon.

  2. Add the parsley, cucumber, tomato, bulgur, mint, and green onions and toss to combine. 

  3. Chill until ready to serve.


* To cook coarse bulgur, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Stir in 1 cup dry coarse bulgur, cover, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the bulgur is tender. Drain any excess water, then fluff with a fork. Measure 2/3 cup cooked bulgur for the salad and save the rest for another use. Allow the bulgur to cool to room temperature before adding to the salad. 


To prepare fine bulgur, place it in a bowl and cover with 1/2 inch of water. Soak for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain.