Herbs and spices are ideal for adding to vegetable soups because they contribute a lot of flavour, which means you can cut down on the salt in the recipe. Add fresh herbs toward the end of the cooking process so their flavour stays bright. Dried herbs and spices can be added earlier, but don't use too much as the flavours may intensify as the soup cooks.
Tomato Vegetable Soups
Spices and herbs that complement tomato-based vegetable soups include herbs that are traditionally used in tomato dishes, such as basil, oregano, parsley and rosemary. These are particularly good in Italian soups, such as minestrone with pasta and beans. Tomato-based soups start with a strong flavour, so accent them with spices such as pepper and hot pepper flakes for added heat.
Classic Vegetable Soups
Classic vegetable soups, which start with a vegetable or chicken stock and have vegetables added in, generally use herbs such as thyme, parsley and bay leaves. These add warm, comforting aromas that are reminiscent of homemade chicken soup. Spice these soups simply with pepper to enhance traditional flavours, or give the traditional a twist with additions like lemon grass for Asian chicken soup.
Regional Vegetable Soups
Depending on the spices and herbs you use, your vegetable soup can have flavours from many different areas of the world. Add cilantro and chilli peppers for a Mexican-inspired vegetable soup, coriander and turmeric for an Indian soup, or smoked or spicy paprika for a Hungarian one.
Storing Herbs and Spices
Store fresh herbs in the refrigerator and use within a week. For best results, pick them fresh and use immediately. It's possible to grow herbs indoors even through the winter in small pots in a windowsill. Dried herbs should be stored in a cool, dark place and used within six months. Purchase spices whole and toast and grind them yourself for the best flavour. Use whole spices within a year of purchase.