Using fresh herbs in cooking adds wonderful flavor to your favorite dishes. However, not having the optimal kitchen utensil for cutting herbs can make it a time consuming chore. Many cooks find using a regular paring knife doesn't do the trick as the herbs tend to stick to the knife blade and require frequent wiping of a sharp edge.
My favorite kitchen tool is an italian chopping knife, also called a mezzaluna. It cuts any herb with ease. A kitchen herb shears is also useful in the kitchen when cooking with fresh herbs. Either of these tools would make a great stocking stuffer for the favorite chef on your Christmas list.
The Single Blade Mezzaluna
Italian Chopping Knife: Single or Double Blade
The mezzaluna is a wonderful invention to chop fresh herbs almost effortlessly with a solid blade. It comes in two main varieties-a single or double blade. Most blades are either nine or ten inch stainless steel blades with small handles on both ends. The handles allow the cook to easily rock the blades back and forth on the herbs to cut them neatly.
Some mezzalunas come with bowls to chop herbs in but it can also be used on a flat cutting board. If you are using a recipe which calls for several chopped fresh herbs, this is an efficient tool as you can use the mezzaluna to chop them all at the same time, easily melding he flavors. A double mezzaluna is especially helpful in this instance when you need to chop an abundance of herbs. The double blades speed the process.
The Origin of the Mezzaluna
The word mezzaluna, meaning half moon, originated in Italy and thus, the Italian chopping knife is named after the curvature of the blade. According to Wikipedia, the kitchen device is called a hachoir in French and is commonly referred to as an herb knife or herb chopper in the United States.
How to Use a Mezzaluna
Kitchen Herb Shears
A kitchen herb shears is also an essential tool when cooking with fresh herbs. This gadget works best cutting scallions or stiff, course herbs such as rosemary. The leafy herbs tend to stick to the blades and are better cut with a mezzaluna. The benefit of the kitchen shears is that it allows the chef to snip the herbs precisely. It also saves having to wash an extra bowl or cutting board. Most kitchen shears come in stainless steel blades that separate for ease of cleaning.
The Five Easiest Herbs to Grow
Even if you do not have a green thumb, you can still grow herbs with ease in a small area of your backyard garden or in containers. Many cooks grow a small indoor herb garden in a window container. Here are the easiest herbs to grow:
This perennial plant is so hearty is quickly grows into a bush. It thrives in sun or shade and is virtually immortal.
Sweet basil is an incredibly flavorful herb. It is an annual plant that grows in shade or sun and is very heat tolerant. It cannot be planted until after the last frost.
Wonderful on fish or tuna melt sandwiches, this shade loving annual grows quickly. For best results, trim the plant back often or else it will need stakes to keep it off the ground.
The fantastic aroma of this fresh herb will bring your senses to life. Cilantro is an annual plant that loves sun, but once the temperatures get too hot, it can be difficult to grow. You can usually get eight to ten weeks of enjoyment before this herb begins to flower.
There are many varieties of oregano, but the best one to plant for flavorful cooking is the Greek oregano plant. This perennial loves the sun. Cut the stems to the ground to encourage more stem growth and a fuller looking plant.
Grilled Summer Vegetables with Herbs Recipes
If you love fresh vegetables but aren't sure how to cook them, click on the link below for easy recipes using fresh herbs with vegetables. These are wonderful recipes to try out your new kitchen tools. http://lauragspeaks.hubpages.com/hub/Recipes-for-Grilled-Summer-Vegetables
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 05, 2015:
Interesting and unique to me.
LauraGSpeaks (author) from Raleigh, NC on July 24, 2012:
Thanks Good Lady. I do cook with herbs much more in the summer when I can grow them in the backyard. I had no idea the mezzaluna had an Italian origin until I did research for this hub. I bet you have a lot of kitchen gadgets in Italy that we don't have.
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on July 24, 2012:
This is a delightful Hub. What would we do without the mezzaluna? It's so useful. Love your herbs too. Summertime veg dishes are wonderful with them aren't they?