Now that we are in peak pesto season, recipes calling for copious amounts of fresh herbs are in abundance. Nothing else quite says late summer like topping your freshly plucked tomatoes with an avalanche of hand-torn basil from the garden—you can freestyle with abandon, getting the proportions exactly to your liking.
But when recipes demand a more specific amount of fresh herbs, the instructions can quickly get confusing, because more often than not, they call not for a specific measure or volume, but the impossibly vague “one bunch” or “a few sprigs.” That can send even the most experienced of cooks into a tailspin—because, really, how much is a “bunch” supposed to be?
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If you’re the type who finds safety in specific numbers, the rule of thumb to go by: In almost every case, a “bunch” equals one to two ounces of fresh herbs, according to The Book of Yields, a reference book meant for helping restaurants nail down their bulk purchasing orders. Larger-leafed varieties, like mint, parsley, and basil, should go closer to two or more ounces, while more compact and potent plants like thyme and rosemary stick closer to one. (Bay leaves are the one exception: Per The Book of Yields, just a half-ounce qualifies as a bunch.)
Herbs, both fresh and otherwise, are there to add layers to your food’s flavor, tempering an acidic marinara sauce with fresh sweetness, say, or giving your beef stew a heady aroma. So when in doubt, err on the side of too much of an herb versus too little. A few extra sprigs of cilantro in your salsa won’t ruin your dinner.