Summer is the season for fresh herbs. Their smells are intoxicating. Their flavors spicy and pungent. And colors so beautiful!
And I love knowing that beyond adding wonderful flavor, herbs are packed with vitamins and other essential things that our bodies need. So in an effort to get us cooking with more herbs, here are a few tidbits and tips.
Sage is a versatile herb with soft fuzzy leaves. Its earthy, peppery taste is classic in turkey and chicken stuffing. Try frying big leaves as a garnish for pork dishes. It's yummy with mashed white beans and lemon juice. Top crostini with feta, prosciutto and sage or top roasted asparagus with sage and shaved parmesan. Add it to any of your stuffed squash recipes for a lovely fall dish.
Its goodness: It has good antibacterial and astringent properties. A cup of sage tea with lemon goes a long way toward helping fight off a cold or sore throat. It's a good herb tea for helping dry up breast milk when weaning. Extracts of sage are often used in skin care products due to its ability to heal the skin. It has positive effects on memory and concentration.
Basil is highly aromatic and has a subtle licorice flavor. Add to a mix of olive oil, feta cheese and kalamata olives for a simple appetizer topping. Sprinkle on thick sliced tomatoes that have been drizzled with olive oil as a simple summer side dish. Toss in green salads, fresh bruschetta and final stages of pasta. For ease in preparation, stack several leaves, roll like a cigar and cut thin strips cross-wise.
Its goodness: Basil is known to protect you from unwanted bacterial growth, is an anti-inflammatory food, has essential cardiovascular health nutrients and strengthens your immune system.
Thyme is a low growing woodsy herb with a minty, peppery, pungent flavor. It's good when combined with other herbs such as parsley and sage. Slow roasted thick-sliced roma tomatoes (overnight in oven at 200 degrees) brushed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves are outstanding! Add these tomatoes to gourmet subs or mix with white beans and basil. Thyme has long been a mainstay in soups and chicken dishes. Try adding a few sprigs to rice when simmering for a nice herby flavor.
Its goodness: Thyme has high antioxidant levels, is a source of B-complex vitamins, and as tea it helps relieve coughs, sore throat and bronchitis symptoms.
Dill is a pungent tasting herb and used to flavor many foods. It's good in chicken, soups and seafood rubs. And who doesn't love a big fat crunchy dill pickle! My partner makes the best egg salad ever and his secret is a teaspoon or two of dill!
Its goodness: Dill contains many antioxidants and essential oils. It's rich in many vitamins including vitamins A & C and folic acid. All are essential for enhancing metabolism.
Rosemary is an evergreen herb with a strong pine-like flavor. I have a giant 15-year-old plant in my backyard that needs little maintenance and is covered with small lavender flowers in early spring. I can't roast a pan of potatoes without throwing in a little rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Mix it with coconut oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper and rub it all over a whole chicken for roasting. You will never roast a chicken any other way. It's a pretty garnish for a roasted vegetable or fish platter. Put several sprigs in a tiny vase of water on you window sill and they will stay fresh for at least a week.
Its goodness: Rosemary alleviates muscle pain, improves memory, boosts the immune and circulatory systems and promotes hair growth.
Mint is mostly known for its aromatic smell. Try sipping a cup of mint tea when you need a little pick-me-up. For the ultimate in fresh, my daughter adds it to a fruit salad with a squeeze of lime. Same goes for a delicious summer fruit beverage. A friend taught me to add a few leaves to a smoothie made with tropical fruit and cucumber. Love this! It's also a great herb in summer cocktails. Think mint julep or mint margaritas.
Its goodness: Mint is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients. All good things that help prevent disease and enhance metabolism. It contains many essential oils in its leaves including menthol. The herb is used in various ways to help relieve fatigue and stress. Peppermint tea is wonderful for digestion.
Tarragon is one of my favorite herbs and classic in French cuisine. It has a distinct anise flavor, so I don't usually combine it with other herbs. It's wonderful in frittatas with goat cheese and bell peppers. Jazz up a sauteed chicken breast by adding tarragon and lemon juice to the drippings and reduce for a couple of minutes. So, so delicious. I love it on grilled halibut with a bit of lemon juice, too.
Its goodness: Tarragon is high in vitamins, potassium and other nutrients. Like most herbs, it has many antioxidants and helps with digestion. It has elements that support overall cardiac health.
Chives are onion-like in flavor, but much milder. They are of the allum bulb family, but you just use the top greens, which kind of look like blades of grass. You can use these in many dishes instead of onions and their bright-green stems add nice color. Chives are good in egg dishes and tasty in salads and dressings. Add them to your favorite potato salad or mix up cherry tomatoes, feta, olive oil, herbs and chives. They are awesome in mashed potatoes. To cut, I put them in a coffee cup and snip with scissors. (You can do this with most herbs.) It's much quicker than chopping and helps maintain their delicate shape.
Its goodness: Chives contain many antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. It has properties that reduce cholesterol, and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral elements. It helps decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. The leaves are packed with B complex vitamins and minerals such as zinc and calcium.
Now it's your turn. Do you have any favorite herbs and suggestions on how to use them? Share with us in the comment section below!