Basil sitting on a pile of spaghetti. Parsley topping a mound of mashed potatoes. Rosemary twigs interspersed among roasted chicken and vegetables. These are all delectable herbs that I have repeatedly seen eaters deliberately push to the edges of their plates, writing them off as ‘garnishes’ as though that implied they were not meant eaten.
Culinary news flash: herbs are flavoring! Yes, the garnish adds to the appetizing presentation of any dish, but chefs don’t throw green leaves on their plates willy-nilly. The reason that your gnocchi is served with sage and not cilantro is that the herb complements the entrée’s hearty flavors. As a home cook and self-proclaimed gastronomist, I get extremely frustrated every time I see someone instinctively remove garnishes like a child picking out vegetables. Only slightly less annoying is the diner who tastes the garnish by itself and then proclaims he/she doesn’t like it. Herbs are usually too intense for most people to enjoy eating them straight-up – that’s the whole reason they’re served in small quantities with other food.
I urge, nay, challenge you to try your garnish with a forkful of your main meal the next time you get the chance. Not only does laying it by the wayside waste a perfectly delicious plant, but it deprives you of a chance to marvelously enhance your meal. Do yourself a favor and allow yourself to experience all that these little plants have to offer.