Spice is nice
Spice is nice – great herbs with great benefits
Herbs can do much more than add much needed spice to the foods you cook. Herbs also have important health benefits, and many herbs have been shown to have remarkable healing properties.
Growing your own herbs
Fortunately, herbs are very easy to grow in your own home herb garden. They are also easy and quite inexpensive to buy, either fresh or in their dried varieties. When buying herbs, whether they are dried or fresh, however, it is important to exercise caution and to buy only the freshest herbs, or those dried herbs made by quality, reputable companies.
The best choice for many people, however, is to grow your own herbs in an herb garden. Unlike many other forms of gardening, an herb garden takes up almost no space. Most herb gardens can be grown using the smallest flower pots set in a sunny windowsill. There are every kits which allow the cook to grow a variety of herbs directly from seed, all in one handy container.
There are as many ways to use herbs in cooking and in healing as there are herbs. For instance, meats, stews and pasta dishes can all be enhanced with basil, garlic, oregano and rosemary. Foods that are naturally sweet can be further enhanced through the addition of herbs like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, while extra heat can be added to many foods by adding a dash of white, black or red pepper.
Herbs and dieting
Dieters often appreciate the ability of herbs to add flavor and variety to food without adding extra calories. When adding fresh herbs to a recipe, the best technique is to gently crush the herbs in your hand in order to fully release their flavor. It is best to add the herbs near the end of the cooking process to preserve their flavor and nutritional value. A few of the most commonly grown herbs for the home garden are:
Sweet basil – Sweet basil (ocimum basilicum), in both the dark opal and the green variety are quite easy to grow from seed, and they generally germinate at 7 to 10 days. Basil can grow to a height of 18 inches, and it provides excellent flavor to tomato paste, pastas, soups and stews.
Chives – Chives (allium scboenoprasum) is a perennial plant which is popular in both herb gardens and more traditional garden patches. These tiny plants resemble spears of grass when they first sprout, but they can grow to a height of 12 inches. Chives are great in salads, sauces and all kinds of egg dishes.
Dill – Dill (anethum graveolens) is another easily grown herb, and it makes an excellent flavoring for meats. Dill is also excellent for use in pickling.
Lavender – Lavender (lavandula) is easy to grow as well, and it provides a fresh scent indoors and out. While not traditionally eaten, lavender is important in aromatherapy, and the dried leaves of the plant make excellent sachets for sprucing up closets.
Mint – Mint (menthe spicat) is also quite easy to grow and it can easily be grown indoors as part of an herb garden. Mint is an excellent accompaniment to fruit drinks and lemonade, and we all know how well mint jelly goes with lamb dishes.
Sage – Sage (saivia officinalis) is another perennial plant that is grown indoors and out. This popular herb is excellent for use in chicken, turkey and pork, and it is often used for flavoring sausage as well.