When we talk about seasoning food, I think most people automatically think about salt and pepper. To me salt and pepper don’t really have flavour. They just enhance one specific sensory characteristic of food – salty, bitter, etc. Herbs on the other hand are BURSTING with flavour. I started growing fresh herbs a few years ago and have been obsessed ever since!
Herbs are the flowering or leafy part of plants that have a pungent flavour and aroma that makes them small but mighty, both in the kitchen and also in the medicine cabinet. That’s right, herbs also boast an immense range of health benefits. Delicious AND healthy? I’d call that a win-win!
As mentioned, herbs are extremely potent, which makes flavouring any dish a breeze, as just a dash will do. They also create some of the most unique food pairings. Citrus coriander ice cream anyone? What about rosemary green beans? Maybe some lemon dill salmon? How about a slice of lavender cheesecake? In my opinion, herbs are a magical must-have in any kitchen. The best part is you can grow them all year round, as they thrive in pots!
Here are my five favourite herbs:
The word basil comes from the Greek work “βασιλεύς”, which means king. Does that mean basil is the king of the herbs? I think so! It’s warm, spicy attribute is so refreshing, and just a few leaves in any dish adds a ton of flavour. I make a vegan lasagne with zucchini noodles, cashew cheese and fresh basil that is to die for. Mmm mmm mmm! Basil is also the basis for pesto, a flavourful Italian sauce.
Basil is known as a chemo-protective food due to its carcinogen-neutralizing volatile oils. It is also a potent source of antioxidants, which help us fight off cell damage.
It’s a close call between basil and cilantro as to which is my most favourite. I put them both on pretty much everything, so I guess it’s a tie!
Just like there are dog people and cat people, there are cilantro people and then there are no-way-Josee never-ever cilantro people. Some people actually lack a specific gene fragment, which makes cilantro taste like soap to them. Lucky for me I am not one of those people, because I CANNOT get enough cilantro. I put it in soups, salads, smoothies, you name it, I put it in there! Did you know that dried cilantro seeds are the spice we know as coriander? This is an amazing dual purpose plant!
Cilantro is a common plant in the world of natural medicine. It is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as helps lower your cholesterol. In some areas of the world it has even been referred to as the anti-diabetic plant, as it helps control blood sugar levels.
Parsley is the world’s most popular herb, and for good reason. Its versatility and peppery characteristic pair well with mostly everything. Parsley is also a common plate garnish, not only because it looks pretty, but also because parsley is a great breath refresher! The idea is you finish your meal with a bite of parsley for fresh breath!
Parsley has similar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to basil, and is also a great source of Vitamin C. You can read about my personal, unique experience with parsley here.
In my mind I have herbs divided into two character-types: the tough bad guys, like cilantro, and the sweet and sassy girls, like mint. Mint is a delightfully dainty herb that makes a refreshing tea and delicious desserts. I love to add mint to smoothies or infuse it in my water with some fresh fruit for a refreshing beverage. Spearmint is commonly made into a jelly and paired with lamb.
Mint is particularly soothing to the stomach and digestion, and also aids in the relief of gas and nausea. It can also help us breathe easier when we’re fighting a congestive cold.
I don’t use fresh dill as frequently as the other herbs but when I do, it is such a refreshing addition. Known for its tangy flavour, dillweed pairs beautifully with fresh fish. You can also use it in soups, salads, meat, poultry, omelettes and potatoes. My favourite way to consume dill is in pickle form!
Like parsley and basil, dill has strong antioxidant and chemo-protective properties. It is also a strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, and also contains high levels of calcium, which aids in bone health.
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Where there are concerns over the amount of sodium we consume, I think it’s safe to say that we can’t go wrong by incorporating fresh herbs into our daily diets, not only for flavour but also for health benefits!
Now it’s your turn to tell me how you like to flavour your food! What is YOUR favourite herb?