Fines herbes — or fine herbs — is the term for a set of lightly flavored herbs from Provence, France. Not only do the residents of Provence enjoy mild weather and seafood, but their cooking style is heavily influenced by the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The Ancient Greeks made olive oil a staple in Provence. The Ancient Romans brought a culture of seasoning foods that has endured until the present.
Provence is located in the south of France and has its own distinct food culture that is separate from the cooking styles and preferences in the rest of the country. Aromatic herbs are considered one of the foundations of Provencal food. Chefs in Provence see them as being equally important to garlic, olive oil and capers. In support of that point, one of the most esteemed chefs in French culinary history noted the importance of fines herbes. A 1903 quote from Auguste Escoffier criticized omelets made only with parsley as the sole aromatic note even though they were served as omelets with fines herbes.
The fines herbes are one of the sets of herbs used in Provencal cuisine. The most famous is the herbes de Provence, which is a more robust blend. Fines herbes have often been confused with herbes de Provence even though the two have no common ingredients between them.
Fines herbes flavor profile
The fines herbes are known for their lightness and brightness of flavor. The classic mix consists of equal or nearly equal amounts of four or five herbs:
While it is possible to find dried herbs labeled as fines herbes, the traditional version used by French chefs is always fresh. Because the tarragon tends to dominate the flavor profile, the overall impression is mainly one of the licorice note but backed up by complex flavors from the other three to four herbs.
Health benefits of fines herbes
Because the constituent herbs in a fines herbes blend are rich in many nutrients, the combination can supply you with essential compounds like:
- Vitamins: Tarragon, chervil, and parsley are all good sources of important vitamins so that from these three you can get vitamins A, C and K along with some B vitamins.
- Minerals: The fines herbes are rich sources of dietary minerals and can provide a significant amount of iron, calcium, and magnesium. The herbs also provide a range of other minerals that your body needs for good health.
- Fiber: All of the herbs in the fines herbes blend contain dietary fiber, which is important for gut health.
With the fines herbes in your diet, you may be able to prevent or treat health problems like:
- Poor eye health: Fines herbes contain a significant amount of vitamin A, which you need to ensure that your eyes function properly.
- Weak immune system: The vitamin C in the fines herbes can help to boost your immune system so that it does a better job of protecting the body from infections.
Over the centuries that the fines herbs have been consumed, one of the most popular French applications for the blend is as a seasoning for eggs — omelets or scrambled. Along with the egg preparations, you will see the fines herbes used in vinaigrettes that are served with summer salads. When they are used in cooked dishes, they are added at the very end of the cooking time. This is to minimize their exposure to heat, which can cause them to lose their delicate flavors.