HERBS of choice!

I love cooking. I don’t follow any cookbooks or recipes per se. I just like to create with what I have on hand in my pantry, fridge, freezer and herb garden.

Of course, right now my herb garden is out of season. Lately, it is covered in a blanket of snow. But once the spring warmth arrives I will replant my favorite herbs for easy picking to use in my day to day cooking.

Using fresh herbs (and dried herbs) in cooking adds nutrition to the dish as well as depth of flavors.

My favorite herbs:

BASIL: I have this in my herb garden all summer. Whenever I make Italian food I go heavy on the basil. Basil gives off a flavor of mild licorice and a bit of pepper. I find fresh basil way better than dried basil in most dishes. If you make homemade pizza, fresh basil leaves go well on top of the tomato base. Chop basil leaves and add to pasta sauces close to the end of the simmer. Basil is low calorie. It contains potassium, lots of Vitamin A, some calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, B6 and Magnesium.

BAY LEAVES: I do not grow these in my garden so I keep a sealed jar of organic bay leaves in my spice drawer. I use one or two bay leaves in large pots of soups and stews. Bay leaves are also good tossed in with roasted vegetables. Bay leaves give your food a savory boost, and a nutritional boost. Bay leaves are high in vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin C, lots of iron, B6 and magnesium. We do not eat the bay leaves, removing them from the dish before serving it.

CHIVES: I grow chives in my herb garden. They have a mild onion taste. We like to use them on baked potatoes. I also dice them fine and use them to garnish soft cheese dips and things like deviled eggs.

CILANTRO: I love the taste of cilantro but many don’t. It’s a love/hate thing. I know my Mom dislikes the flavor of this herb. I grow cilantro in my summer herb garden. I like to use chopped fresh cilantro on salads, and in dishes with a Mexican flare such as guacamole. I also like to use fresh cilantro chopped up with mango, red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to make a salsa topping for grilled salmon. The flavors go well together. Fresh cilantro is way better than dried in all things. Fresh cilantro contains C, A and K vitamins and minerals such as folate, potassium, manganese, choline and other trace minerals.

DILL: I had some fresh dill in my herb garden last summer. I will likely add it to my mix this summer too. It goes so well with fish. I chop it fine and sprinkle it on grilled fish, or use it in dips. Fresh dill is better then dried dill but in a pinch, dried dill has pretty good flavor too. Dill offers your body potassium, A, C and B6 vitamins. It contains some iron, magnesium and a little fiber.

MARJORAM: In my kitchen marjoram comes out of a spice jar. I do not grow it. This herb is similar to oregano but is a superior flavor. It goes well in salad dressings and green salads, egg dishes, tomato sauces and pairs well with lots of vegetable dishes. Add it towards the end of cooking so it retains it’s flavor. Marjoram is high in potassium and fiber. It contains some protein, high in Vitamin A and calcium, loaded with iron, good source of vitamin C, B6 and magnesium.

MINT: I keep fresh mint growing in it’s own pot near my main herb garden. Mint grows like a weed and will take over your herb garden if you plant it all together. Dried mint is okay too but nothing compares to fresh mint in cocktails, teas, veggie dishes, mint sauce for lamb and more. I like to use it in my “virgin Mojito” mocktail. I smash it in my mortar and pestle to bruise the fresh leaves releasing the oil from the leaves that gives off the flavor. Fresh mint leaves chopped up and added to fruit salads is another way to enjoy mint. Mint has vitamin A, C, B6, calcium, iron and magnesium in it.

OREGANO: This is probably my most used herb on a day to day basis. I plant fresh oregano in my herb garden and use it frequently. Oregano is stronger and spicier than marjoram, being very pungent. I find oregano lends it flavor to Italian and Greek cooking. Nutritionally, oregano offers Vitamin A, C, K and minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium. It also ups the fiber quotient.

PARSLEY: This herb is easy to grow in your herb garden. I prefer the flat-leaf parsley myself but you can also use curly parsley. Parsley is very versatile and can be used in any dish you please. It has a nice fresh flavor. I often juice it in my morning smoothie in a large amount as Parsley is full of nutritional value containing vitamin A, C and K. Parsley helps support healthy blood sugar levels, good heart health and immune support with it’s antioxidant properties.

ROSEMARY: is part of my herb garden. Like mint, I plant it in a separate planter from my other herbs. I use rosemary with roasted potatoes and roasted veggies, I use it when I am making a spice rub for roast lamb. Rosemary is high in manganese, and antioxidants to support immunity, improved memory, stress reduction and more.

SAGE: I grow sage in my herb garden. I snip the leaves off the plant and include them in poultry dishes and stuffings. It’s very aromatic and nutritious too, containing magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, beta-carotene, vitamin A & K.

TARRAGON: I add this herb to my planter. It’s one herb I don’t use a whole lot because I don’t cook a lot of creamy sauces but I like to use it in certain sauces for poultry. I make a Dijon mustard and onion chicken and tarragon works well in this particular dish. You can add tarragon to fish dishes, tomato sauces, egg dishes, pickles and to make flavored vinegars. When it comes to it’s nutrition value tarragon has lots of potassium, fiber, protein, vitamin A, calcium, Vitamin C, iron, B6 and magnesium.

THYME: I include thyme in my herb garden because it is so versatile. Because of it’s earthy flavor I add it to dishes that include mushrooms. I find thyme really lends itself to the earthy, woodsy taste of all mushrooms. I also like to use thyme in garlicy foods. Thyme is high in vitamin C and also offers some vitamin A, calcium, Iron, B6 and magnesium.

There are other dried organic herbs I like to use in my kitchen but are from a spice jar. The above herbs I mention are ones I use frequently and grow in my own little herb garden on our back deck. I clip stems and leaves off of my herbs daily and include one or the other or more than one in our daily dinners, salad dressings etc.

I am looking forward to spring and the renewal of my fresh herb garden. During the winter months I still use all of the herbs listed here, but they come from a spice jar from my pantry drawer. I could purchase fresh herbs from the grocery store all winter but it’s just as easy to shake them out of a spice jar for my winter cooking.

As Emeril Lagasse once said “wrap fish fillets, sliced veggies, and other quick cooking items inside foil packets with bundles of fresh herbs and throw them directly on the grill; the steam will release the herb’s perfume and flavor anything contained inside the pouch”.

Enjoy cooking with herbs. It ups the flavor of your cooking and ups your nutrition ante!

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