Herbs: Tips and reasons to boost food flavor using herbs

Fresh wild edible spring herbs on wooden spoons: ground-ivy, veronica, chickweed, violet flower, wild garlic, alliaria, dandelion, daisy, ground elder, wild carrot

Fresh herbs are a great way to enhance flavor without adding extra sodium and calories.  Did you know that herbs have some health benefits?  Herbs contain antioxidants, which help to protect your cells from damage, and other nutrients that may protect against cancer and other diseases. 

Herbs are easy plants to grow.  They can be grown outside in a garden but can also do well in a container, indoors or out.  If you don’t have fresh herbs, dried herbs have similar flavor and health benefits. Make sure to keep dried herbs in an airtight container and discard after one year or by the “sell by” date, whichever comes first. 

Basil:  

  • Basil is a good source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, manganese and magnesium.
  • Oils and extracts of this member of the mint family have been shown to have antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
  • Try basil in pesto, black bean soup, fruit ice or sorbet, or add fresh basil to salads.  Grill a sandwich with fresh basil leaves, low-fat mozzarella cheese and sliced tomatoes.

Dill:

  • Dill is a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese.
  • It contains monoterpenes, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.  Dill has also been shown to enhance digestion and bone health.
  • Try dill in salads, fish dishes, soups and dips.  The seeds (ground or whole) are delicious in breads, cheeses, salad dressings—and for pickling cucumbers and other vegetables.

Rosemary:

  • Rosemary contains the antioxidant rosmarinic acid along with essential oils that have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties.  It is also a good source of B-vitamin, Vitamin C, potassium, calcium and iron.
  • Use rosemary to flavor soups, baked vegetables, and potato and meat dishes. Sprinkle fresh rosemary on pizza crust and drizzle with olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Chives:

  • Chives are a good source of Vitamin C and K, folic acid, and the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium. 
  • Chives contain the antioxidant allicin, which has been shown to decrease cholesterol.  They also have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • Sweet mild flavored chives can be added to salads, stir-fries, soups and stews.  Try them in muffins, scones, quiche and pizza.

Oregano:

  • Oregano contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, calcium and iron.
  • Oregano’s essential oils have antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • Oregano is part of the Mediterranean Diet, along with olive oil, fish, lots of greens, herbs and vegetables.
  • Use oregano in tomato sauce, or as a burger seasoning.

Mint:

  • Mint is an excellent source of potassium, calcium, iron, and a good source of Vitamins A, C, E and K as well as B-complex vitamins.
  • Mint can be added to salads, sauces, and drinks.  It can be chopped and added to garlic, lemon juice and plain yogurt for a healthy salad dressing. 

Thyme:

  • Thyme is a source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, potassium, iron, manganese, copper and fiber.
  • Thyme’s essential oil, thymol, has antimicrobial properties and has been shown to protect against foodborne bacterial illnesses.  It is also used to preserve food.
  • Sprinkle thyme on cooked vegetables to preplace butter or margarine, add to scrambled eggs and salad dressings, and use in chicken salad and chicken soup.

References:

www.webmd.com

www.nutriton-and-you.com

www.whfoods.com

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