I often use basil like a vegetable, particularly the "standard" Italian-type basil or Genovese basil, both of which I also grow in season. Ditto Thai-type or Vietnamese-type basil (húng quế). I use them (suitably trimmed) in soups and stir-fries, in vegetable-sized portions - fistfuls of them, leaves-on-tender-stems and flowers and all. I also grow at least two varieties of Thai/Vietnamese basil each year. I frequently buy big bunches of all of them as well. I sometimes also grow Holy Basil, Purple basil, etc as well. I used to grow up to a dozen varieties but I gave that up some years ago.
On my part I am very reluctant to buy (Western-type) basil, the "usual variety", at Western supermarkets in my area. It's exorbitant in price. So, out of season, I get fresh (Western) basil from those places only if I have to. In season it would come from my own plants or from the Farmers' Markets by the bunchful. Thai/Vietnamese basil is a different story - even in the dead of winter I will get the stuff from my local Chinese grocery or the International market. Previously I got it from the grocery half of a Vietnamese restaurant-cum-grocery, 1-2 pounds at a clip (after asking the proprietess); they got their stuff from Texas. I think my current Chinese grocery gets it from California. Or, from the Vietnamese groceries in Chicago (usually around Argyle Street) when I am there. During spring-summer-fall I also have my own plants.
One thing that dried basil is nice in is rice, I find. Just add some (I am generous with the quantity) to the pot when making rice (in the "usual" manner) scattered on top of the water, with or without a bit of salt and/or oil if desired - I usually add just the dried basil. Makes for a nice change.
The "Western-type" herbs I commonly use and grow (other than basil, already mentioned) would include:
• Thyme (typically 'English', 'French', 'Lemon', 'Silver'...) as fresh thyme or dried (out of season, or just for the hell of it) - in stews, sautés, braises, whatever.
• Rosemary (I currently have a fairly large standard overwintering in my breezeway :-) ), 'Logee Blue' if I can get it.
• Parsley (Italian) - I grow it in season, buy it at other times and as needed; used in the "normal way" generally; or in special dishes like this one (scroll down) where I use lots of it. Sometimes I'll use it almost like a vegetable - e.g. a fistful or two tossed into chicken broth to wilt and simmer for just a minute or so, then eaten together w/ the soup.
• Sage (Common type) - this one is very hardy and survives the winters outside most of the time. Used once in a while, usually in pork-type dishes.
•Tarragon (French) - this also usually survives outside (but this winter has been very bad...we'll see if it comes back this year). Used in some omelettes, egg dishes, in sautés w/ chicken especially (e.g. chicken w/ mustard & tarragon) &etc.
• Oregano (indeterminate variety; typical "Garden Center" stuff, probably a Greek-derived/Mediterranean cultivar; but NOT Turkish or Russian, which are visibly distinguishable varieties and which I dislike) - also winter-hardy most of the time. I would consider Russian Oregano to be definitely an ornamental. :-) (I've grown it) I also use the dried stuff; while I get dried "Mexican oregano" (actually Lippia graveolens) from the Supermercado here. Used in typical manner - stews, braises, meat sauces for Italian-American pasta dishes, etc. I rarely use (or grow) marjoram.
I also often have a pot or two of Vietnamese coriander (rau răm) a.k.a. Laksa leaves &etc during the growing season, but not always. (indoors/overwintering - they get very leggy) Those go into, yes, laksa-type or curry-type dishes, or get used as a veggie in stir-fries also. (See: Persicaria odorata) I also buy this on occasion.
The most commonly used herbs for me would be scallions/green onions and coriander leaf/cilantro, both of which I buy - usually from the local Chinese/"Asian" grocery, rarely from the Western supermarkets (big cost difference). Used in all sorts of ways, ranging from being components of the dishes (typically E/SE Asian cuisines) to garnishes for the dishes. Occasionally I'll get Japanese-type (negi) or large-type Chinese "scallions" (大蔥).
Sometimes I'll get Chinese chives (韭菜; Allium tuberosum; garlic chives) or garlic chive flowerbuds (韭菜花) (they are bundled/sold separately) - for use in various soups, braises, stir-fries, omelettes, etc. Once in a while I'll pick up some yellow Chinese chives. Uses - same as for the green type, but these have a more delicate flavor. I guess these would also be used on a "vegetable scale" frequently. I can't remember the last time I picked up Western chives for home use, although I've eaten it incorporated in various dishes in Western restaurants, of course.
On occasion I will get some mint (usually spearmint or similar; sometimes applemint; for salads, some SE Asian/Vietnamese dishes, etc), or rarely things like culantro (ngò gai'; Mexican coriander; Eryngium foetidum) when I make Phở, for example. I also sometimes buy lemongrass for some Thai/Vietnamese/Malaysian dishes. My Mint Juleps I'll leave to bartenders hither and yon. My Gawd, I remember the mint juleps I had (with my companion) in Savannah, GA on the eve of a hurricane, in a bar on the riverfront deserted except for the two of us and the bartender who grew his own mint in his backyard. :-)
I do also have perilla (Vietnamese variety - tía tô) growing outside in season - in fact, the damn thing is all over the place (it seeds itself with wild abandon into every nook and cranny and even into the lawn!!) but I actually rarely use it and in the last couple of years have been pulling up wayward plants of it by the bushel, it almost seems, and tossing them - but I'll give them to a local shop this year...)
ETA: Oh, I forgot - Bay leaves, of course. Laurus nobilis in particular. I do not use California bay or Indian Bay. I've had bay trees (standards) or bushes over the years and have tended to lose them to the Big Garden In The Sky - because overwintering them indoors somehow seems to be hard to do in my hands. They're also big scale magnets. I usually buy and use them as dried leaves nowadays - in all sorts of soups/stews/braises. I also used to grow Murraya koenigii (கருவேப்பிலை; "curry leaves") but usually buy them (fresh, of course) from Indian groceries nowadays. I use them in Southern Indian style curries.
I have (and use) various dried Chinese herbs such as the ones I listed in the post on (a recent batch of) Bak Kut Teh that I linked to in my previous post above. They usually go into soups.
Edited by huiray, 28 February 2014 - 01:25 PM.