I realized the other day that there is a whole world of spices that I know very little about. Take tarragon for instance. I recently picked up a bag a dried tarragon, along with herb de provence and orange extract. They were a bargain and I figured I could experiment at home. I've conquered the herbs de provence and chosen to abstain from the orange extract at least for the time being, but the tarragon sits on the shelf, unused, nay unopened! I'm not quite sure what to do with it or what to put it on. Perhaps all that lies between me and a life with tarragon is a Google search for "tarragon recipes" or simply opening the bag and rubbing the herbs between my fingers for culinary inspiration. Maybe I love tarragon already and don't even know it. The fact remains that tarragon will most probably decorate my spice rack a bit longer before I take the plunge. There are a whole host of other herbs that fit this bill (cloves, tumeric, Chinese five-spice powder) that remain on the store shelves until I encounter at least two recipes that require them and thus justify their purchase.
In other herb news, I recently overcame my fear of thyme. I think it was the silent H or years of using only dried thyme in recipes that frightened me off. But the desire for Guiness beef stew, seasoned with fresh thyme and parseley, taught me to seize the day and learn a valuable lesson. The earthiness of thyme in dried form (some might go so far as to say it tastes like dirt) is much less pronounced in its fresh, much more delicate state. Fresh thyme is now finding its way into everything from stuffed shells to chicken soup and my stomach is better for it.
Apparently thyme is also good for fighting off colds.