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What is a herb?
All herbs are plants, but not all plants are herbs!
An herb is defined as a plant, that can be useful, either as an ingriedient, tastegiver or medicinal with a therapeutic effect. Herbs are special kinds of plants that can produce changes in the human body. Herbs are often aromatic as well and can be mentally stimulating. For example, Rosemary (rosmarinus officialis), a great herb for cooking lamb, is also a medicinal herb that helps with bad circulation and it’s potent smell is said to improve lack of concentration.
What about spices?
Spices, such as ginger (zingiber officinalis) and black pepper (piper nigrum) are seeds, berries or roots of certain plants. They are used especially in eastern cuisine to give a strong, burning flavor to add warmth to the food. They are also an important part of natural medicin, like Ayurveda (traditional medicin from India). Medicinally it is used for alleviating digestive trouble and stimulating the body’s immune system.
Ever since the time of the Roman empire, when these spices were brought to Europe, they have been a part of traditional European medicine. In the “Complete Herbal” – a book by Nicholas Culpepper from the 1600’s, black pepper is described as
“a spice that dissolves air in the bowls, alleviates cough and other chest-diseases and stimulates the appetite”.
So as you see there is a long and historic use of herbs and spices as medicine.
Mostly we use it as a taste-enhancer in our household, and I didn’t want Dianna to miss out on this wonderful world of natural taste!
Simple ways to add herbs & spices to your food
A great way to make sure your food isn’t too spicy when you’re cooking for the whole family and small children, is to serve the spice and herbs in a sidedish. I do this by serving a nice pesto, dip/dressing or even herb-butter on the side or in a salad.
Here is a little list of everyday herbs & spices and how I use them in my kitchen:
Herbs & Spices
Basil: Fresh leaves for pesto and also with raw or cooked tomatoes.
Chili: Small amounts of whole or ground spice in indian, southamerican or thai dishes.
Dill: Fresh leaves in fish and cheese-dishes, also in pickled greens and vinegars.
Estragon: Fresh or dried leaves in chicken, fish or lamb dishes. Also nice in omelets and herbal butters.
Fennel: Fresh leaves with chicken, pork and fish. Seeds in fish-dishes, oils and herbal teas.
Green mint: Freshly chopped over new potatoes, with mushy peas or in a nice iced tea!
Garlic: Grated in dips and dressings, soups, herbal butters, bread, greek and indian cuisine.
Ginger: Freshly grated in indian, thai and chinese cuisine. Dried in cakes, cookies and anything cooked with apples – YUM!
Cinnamon: Ground spice goes great with apples in any baked goods. And also it’s great in teas and mulled wine.
Cardamom: Dried powder spice in cakes and cookies, coffee and indian cuisine.
Coriander (Cilantro): Fresh leaves as garnish for indian and thai dishes or soups. Also I use it in green salads and the seeds as a pickle-spice.
Laurel: Dried leaves in soups and broths, bolognese-sauces, lentledishes and pot-roasts. Anything that is simmer-food basically!
Nutmeg: Dried powder spice in meatdishes, vegetable casseroles, apple chutney or fried apples – also great in milkshakes and teas!
Oregano: In spicy meat- and vegetable dishes and tomatobased sauces.
Paprika: In stews, cheese and egg dishes, dressings and pastasauces.
Chives: Fresh-cut with eggdishes and herbal butters. Garnish for salads and soups.
Rosemary: Fresh and dried leaves with lamb, pork and chicken dishes. Also great with mushrooms, especially in sauces!
Sage: Fresh and dried leaves with pork, game and potent meat-dishes, in applesauce and with cheese.
Black pepper: Dried, freshly milled as a spice for almost every dish containing meat!
Thyme: Fresh or dried in italien pastasauces, in fish, lamb, pork or beef dishes. Also great with feta-cheese!
Keep it simple
These are some simple ideas on how to get started using more spices and herbs in your everyday food. Try to add them gradually if you’re cooking for younger children and toddlers or again as a sidedish.
Another way I like to keep it simple is to avoid using too many machines in my kitchen. My old-time Pestle & Mortar does the trick just as good – well in fact even better then the food processor!! Something about the primal beating of the herbs and spices makes me feel so satisfied! And I swear the flavors and scents are just more delicious this way!
How do you use spices & herbs in your kitchen? And is there something missing from my “everyday” list? Tell me in the comments below.
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