Tired of being pigeonholed as savoury support, some herbs are elbowing their way to the dessert table with welcomed results. Basil brightens berries, melon smoothes tarragon’s rough edges and rosemary abandons pale poultry in favour of dark black currants. Looking for a refreshing change of pace with your summer fruits? Head to the herb garden and play with these combinations. The possibilities are as rich as the harvest.
With hints of licorice and cloves, basil is a versatile herb. It brightens almost any berry, plays well with citrus and is subtle enough to highlight sweet stone fruit such as apricots and peaches. While sweet basil is a natural choice, you can spice things up with cinnamon, lemon or thyme basil. Basil also works well with mint so don’t be afraid to toss them together in your basil-fruit combination.
Use freshly minced basil with relative abandon. You want to be able to see and taste the herb you’re adding.
This tender perennial has all the lemon intensity of a lemon but without the mouth-puckering tartness. Lemon verbena’s vibrant taste goes well with almost any fruit. Berries, cherries, stone fruits, grapes and melons are perfect partners for this fresh, clean herb. Toss in a fruit salad with some honey and a hint of lavender, and you have the ultimate summer salad. Steep a few sprigs into your summer iced tea or add some leaves to a fruit punch for a lift. You can also use it as an infusion for beverages, or chop and sprinkle it on fruit.
Mint is a natural with lime — think mojitos— but it also complements classic, Canadian-grown fruits like apples and blackberries. For fun, try chocolate mint or pineapple mint with sliced strawberries, grapefruit and/or watermelon.
Use finely chopped and with a bit of caution. Some mints are stronger than others. You can always add more. Since mint is a natural mate with fruit-friendly basil, try a combination of the two herbs.