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5. Epazote

Although this is a relatively new herb to many American cooks, epazote has been used in Mexico for cooking and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

In Mexico, epazote is best known for flavoring bean dishes and making herb tea. One new use suggested by the Spice Islands Marketplace is to drizzle some olive oil on top of flat bread and sprinkle epazote over the top. Then heat and serve.

How it improves dishes: Epazote has a powerful flavor similar to licorice. You can use it in bean dishes as well as eggs, burritos, rice, soups, stews, salads, quesadillas, and meat dishes. It's also known for helping curb the gas-inducing effect of beans.

6. Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence (also called Herbs of Provence) is a blend of five or six herbs reminiscent of France's sunny Provence region. The herbs included in the blend vary by brand but usually include thyme, basil, savory, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, or lavender.

How it improves dishes: This sweet and fragrant aromatic herb blend adds depth and complexity to your hot dishes. You can use it as a rub on roasts, meats, and fish. It's also great on grilled food. You can add it to marinades or sprinkled into sautés, omelets, vegetable dishes, sauces, and soups.

Tips for Buying, Using, and Storing Dried Herbs

If your grocery store doesn't stock these spices or herbs, search for them online.

Store dried herbs in a cool, dark place, especially if they come in a clear glass container.

If a recipe calls for fresh herbs and you're using dried instead, use about 1/3 less. If the recipe calls for a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, a teaspoon of dried herbs will do.

But dried herbs lose flavor over time. If stored correctly, they will last about a year. Sniff the herbs before you use them. If you can't smell anything, they're past their prime.

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