If, like me, you can’t get enough French food, you’ve probably come across the term “Herbs de Provence,” or simply “Herbs Provence” a few times. Ever wondered what it meant? I’m here to help! Provence is a beautiful coastal region in Southern France, home to Marseilles, Cannes, and the French Riviera. The term “Herbs Provence” refers to a flavorful, aromatic blend of herbs that are often used in Provencal cooking. I always keep some on hand, because you never know when you’re going to need them.
What Herbs, Exactly?
As I discovered while traveling through France, the exact blend of herbs varies from kitchen to kitchen. A roundup of the usual suspects includes thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, and a slightly peppery herb often used in French cooking called savory. When blended together, these herbs serve as a great all-purpose fragrance and flavor enhancer, used to season everything from beef/lamb, to fish, to stews, and even cheeses and olives. This is an essential blend for French cooking.
How Are the Herbs Grown and Harvested?
I’ve got some bad news for you: there is a good chance the Herbs de Provence you buy at your local grocery store doesn’t actually come from France. But I never give bad news without a little good news to cleanse the palate: authentic French Herbs de Provence are available online and at specialty spice stores. And let me tell you, seeing (and smelling) these herbs grow in their natural environment on the hillsides of South France is a thing of beauty. It – and my wonderful picnics with a bottle of Burgundy – made me truly appreciate the French countryside.
Traditionally, farmers harvest the herbs by hand every summer, then dry them for blending. French farmers have been doing it this way for thousands of years. And since I visited Provence in the summer, I was fortunate enough to tag along for a harvest. It’s hard work, though it’s hard to imagine a more tranquil environment for such back-breaking labor.
How to Use Herbs de Provence
The wonderful thing about Herbs de Provence is that the blend works well in so many dishes. Obviously, they are perfect for many traditional French dishes. So, for instance, the next time you are cooking a juicy coq au vin (chicken stewed in red wine), sprinkle some tasty herbs over the delicious dish for added French flavor. I find that they take my roasted vegetables to the next level. When I eat a plate of roasted root vegetables with Herbs de Provence sprinkled over them, I am instantly transported back to the south of France–which is good because I miss it already. But these versatile herbs can enhance other cuisines as well. One of my chef friends swears by Herbs de Provence as a topping for her vegan mac & cheese. I’m not knocking it, because I have tried it and it was instantly craveable. I am told they also add a nice herbal flavor to grilled fish. Or beef. Or lamb. No wonder they have become such a kitchen staple.
But I would love to know your Herbs de Provence-hacks. Is that a thing? I’m making it one…What dishes do you like to use them in? Whatever you suggest, I’m sure it will make me hungry. But, hey, what else is new?
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