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Making herb butter

One of the most common reasons people grow their own herbs is to use them as fresh additives to food. Though easy to grow, they still require care just like any plant. But the rewards are great when it comes to harvesting time.

One of the best uses of culinary herbs is in a fine herb butter. They're easy to prepare and the herb adds a touch that you just can't get any other way. It can be used in a vegetable dish, smeared on baked chicken or just as a nice spread on corn on the cob. Breads benefit from a nice layer of herb butter spread on top near the end of the cooking cycle.

There are a dozen different types. Try the blooms of Chives for an onion-like zing, or grind up some Rosemary and spread it over the dough. Use some Dill seeds to give the recipe a little sparkle.

To make Basil butter, just combine 1/2 cup of real fresh butter with a 1/2 cup of shredded leaves from dried Basil. It's great on scrambled eggs. Add a 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to the mix and a tablespoon of lemon juice and smear onto a French bread loaf as it's baking.

Around Thanksgiving you might want a traditional Sage flavor in the dish. Just cream together 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of minced Sage leaves, then spread onto turkey or fish.

Cilantro butter is a great favorite. Mix two blanched and minced garlic cloves with a 1/2 cup butter, then fold in 1/2 cup of minced Cilantro and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Makes a great spread for tortillas and other Mexican dishes.

Or, reach for the Tarragon. Chop finely and mix with a 1/2 cup of butter, then fold in the herb. Add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice and spread onto some French bread fresh out of the oven. For a traditional Tarragon dish, spread the butter on fish or use in a tomato and egg recipe. The slightly anise flavor will add zing anywhere it's used.

Thyme is a favorite in many herb butter recipes. Add a crumbled leaf to a 1/2 cup of butter and soften. Then spread on baked potatoes or hot pasta. To add more flavor profiles, mix in an equal amount of Parsley and fresh Basil.

Whichever your favorite herb - and it would be hard to choose one - you can make an herb butter that is more flavorful than the bland, ordinary spread that comes from the cube or tub. Experiment!