I remember years ago when I first really started cooking, I made some rosemary focaccia. It was also one of the first times I made homemade bread and I was so excited for the end result.

The bread itself was amazing, but when I tasted it, the only other flavor I got from the bread was the sea salt I sprinkled on top before baking. There was not a hint of rosemary flavor at all.

It was then that I learned something. Fresh herbs are plants, and just like you sometimes get a flavorless peach or lime with no juice, they are not the same every time. Things like the conditions they were grown in or how they were harvested all have an effect on flavor.

After I figured out the easiest way to avoid tasteless herbs, I felt like an idiot because it’s so simple — you just smell them. If they smell bright and fresh, you’re good to go. If they smell like nothing, well, that’s what they’re going to add to your food.

I do this each and every time I buy any fresh herbs. I’m sure I’ve looked like a total weirdo in the Whole Foods produce section taking a big whiff of parsley or mint before putting it in my cart, but I’ve avoided a lot of disappointment by doing this.

This tip also works for dried herbs and spices as well, because we are all guilty of keeping a jar of dried thyme or chili powder in the back of our spice cabinet for far too long. Your nose is a huge help in making sure your meals are worth the effort.
It’s simple and effective, and works every time.

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