Herbs are fantastic! They enhance flavors, they are beautiful in our meals, and they have so many health benefits. Herbs contain vitamins and minerals and are also great antioxidants, which are helpful to protect us against free radicals and cell damage.
We can use fresh or dry herbs, depending of what we are cooking and what’s available, but fresh herbs are usually more flavorful. If you cook them, it’s best to add fresh herbs almost at the end of cooking, to keep the flavor and health benefits. Dry herbs, on the other hand, can be added in the cooking process since they will add flavor while cooking. In general, if you want to replace dry herbs with fresh, or vice-versa, you will need ¼ tsp. of dry herbs for 1 tbsp. of fresh herbs.
Fresh herbs should be stored in the refrigerator with the stem in the water or wrapped in a damp paper towel. They can also be frozen for several months without losing their flavors. Most dry herbs should be used within 6 months to preserve their taste. They should be stored in a cool and dark place, away from the sunlight.
Let’s look at some of the most popular herbs now.
Basil is one of the oldest and most popular herbs. It’s very popular in the Italian and Mediterranean kitchen. There are many varieties but the sweet basil is one of the most popular. There is also one type of basil that is used in Thai dishes.
Health benefits: This herb is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and be beneficial for the digestive and cardiovascular system.
Coriander and cilantro are used but coriander actually means the plant, or the seed, and cilantro refer to the leaves. The seeds are known to have healing power and can be whole or ground. Fresh cilantro has a pungent flavor. It’s a very popular herb in Mexican cuisine.
Health benefits: Cilantro is known to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as being an aid for the digestive system. This herb is also powerful to detox the body from heavy metals.
Chives are part of the onion family and have a sweet and mild onion flavor. It’s a popular herb to use to garnish dishes, especially in French and Mediterranean cuisine. Chives are best if fresh.
Health benefits: Chives have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and are known to be an aid to the digestive system.
Dill is very aromatic, has a sweet taste and an appetizing flavor. Dill goes well with salmon, pickles, and potato salads.
Health benefits: This herb has anti-bacterial properties and is known to stimulate appetite and be a good aid for the digestion.
Marjoram is a sweet and spicy herb that is popular in the Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a close relative to oregano so if you are out of oregano, you can always substitute with marjoram. This herb goes well in soups, stews, as well as vegetable dishes and meat.
Health benefits: This herb is known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Mint is a very aromatic herb that goes well in tea, fruit salads, desserts, and some vegetable dishes. Mint is also used in some alcoholic beverages, candies, chocolate, and chewing gum. The most common varieties are peppermint and spearmint but the one that we mostly use is the spearmint.
Health benefits: Mint is an excellent aid for the digestion and is helpful for those who have nausea or headaches. Mint helps to relax and is also known to be helpful to decongest the nose, the throat, and the lungs.
Oregano has an aromatic and bitter taste. It’s a very popular herb in the Mediterranean cuisine. It goes well in soups, sauces, as well as with almost all tomato dishes. Oregano is known for its disease-preventing properties.
Health benefits: Oregano has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
Parsley is the most popular herb. It’s highly nutritious and brings a lot of colors and flavors in a dish. Flat parsley, or Italian parsley, is very aromatic and is the one that we normally cook with. Curly parsley has a milder flavor and is mostly used to garnish soups, salads, or any other meals. Dry parsley can also be used, but mostly as a garnish, since it doesn’t have a lot of flavor.
Health benefits: Parsley has general health-promoting properties; it’s known to boost the immune system as well as being good for the heart and having anti-inflammatory properties.
Rosemary has a beautiful and unforgettable pine-like fragrance, which make this herb very different than the others. It goes well with roasted vegetables, meats, in tomato sauces, as well as in soups and marinades. Dry rosemary is aromatic as well and is a good replacement if fresh is not available.
Health benefits: Rosemary contains a substance that helps to stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and to improve digestion. It’s also used in many different natural remedies.
THYME (add photo)
Thyme has a nice fragrance and can be used to flavor soups, stews, vegetables dishes, or meat. If you are using fresh thyme, remove the stem and only use the leaves. One fresh sprig equals ½ tsp. of dry thyme. Thyme is also an important component of the bouquet garni or herbes de Provences.
Health benefits: Thyme is known to help to relax the respiratory system.
It’s a mix of Marjoram, Parsley (or Chevril), Thyme and Bay Leaf, but can also contain other herbs.
You make a bouquet garni by putting all those herbs together with a string or in a cheesecloth sachet, and you add it to your dish. When it’s cooked, you remove the bouquet garni before serving.
It’s a mix of Chervil, Chives, Parsley and Tarragon. It may also include Marjoram, Savory, and Watercress. It’s especially used in the Mediterranean cuisine.
HERBES DE PROVENCE
It’s a mix of dried herbs that are typically from Provence. Oregano, Savory, Rosemary, Thyme, and Marjoram are part of the mix. It’s popular in the French cuisine.
It’s a mix of dried herbs that characterizes the Italian cuisine. Marjoram, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary are present.