It’s the Season: Herbs
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Herbs and spices are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different. Spices refer to many parts of a plant, whereas herbs are usually from just the leaves of a non-woody plant. Some examples of spices are cinnamon, which is a bark, and dehydrated onion and garlic, which are roots. One plant can produce an herb and a spice, such as cilantro leaves and coriander seeds coming from the cilantro plant.
Herbs are great to include in our meals because they offer lots of flavor without the addition of salt and sugar. Herbs also have antioxidants, which help protect our bodies from chronic disease (such as heart disease and cancer). While herbs are nutrient dense, the amount of nutrients we get from the herbs are low due to the small portions that we usually consume. If a recipe calls for dried herbs you can substitute about 3 times as much of the fresh version.
The following herbs are all widely available and affordable options to add to your home cooking. These are also plants that are easy to grow either indoors or outside in a garden. For more information on growing herbs go to Growing Culinary Herbs.
Basil is one of the most popular herbs to grow and use. It is a fragrant herb that is included in many Italian dishes. It can be used to season foods or in larger amounts to create a dish such as pesto.
Cilantro is an herb that can be very polarizing. Some people (like myself) absolutely love it and believe that it can elevate a recipe from simple to spectacular. Others, however, describe a “soapy” taste when eating cilantro. Research has actually found that a gene in some people can detect the plant’s defensive smell against certain bugs. If you do enjoy the flavor of cilantro, try this Simple Salsa Recipe.
Dill is the star ingredient in many pickles and relishes. It is an herb that is often used in Mediterranean cuisine. The herb has the most flavor before flowers begin to sprout on the plant, however the yellow flowers of the dill plant are actually well-loved by pollinators.
We may consume mint more as a flavor than an herb, so we have included some ideas for using the fresh version of this plant. Mint creates delicious beverages like warm mint tea or as a flavoring in water. It can also be used in savory dishes such as this Tabouli Bulgur Wheat Salad.
Dried oregano is often used in recipes, such as this Homemade Taco Seasoning, but it is also a great addition in it’s fresh form to Italian, Greek, and Mexican cuisines.
Parsley doesn’t have as intense of a flavor as some of the other herbs on this list, so it can be added to a wide variety of recipes. It is easily mistaken for cilantro, so make sure to look closely when purchasing!
Rosemary has a strong flavor and is a great addition to many European dishes. It can be added as a whole sprig to meat recipes or the leaves can be removed and chopped to be added to stews or roasted potatoes. This Rosemary Bread recipe is another excellent way to enjoy the unique flavor of rosemary.