Cooking with Herb & Aromatics
When checking out our farmers’ vendor stands, the brightly colored, ripe, beautiful fruits and vegetables often take center stage. But near the register or maybe on top of an overflowing basket of carrots often lies fresh items that don’t tend to get as much attention. Those items include herbs and other aromatics, like fresh garlic, ginger, or turmeric (yes, Gabe has fresh turmeric!). I recall watching a Netflix series with the renowned chef, Samin Nosrat. She mentioned that cooking with fresh herbs and aromatics is some of the best bang for your buck because fresh herbs and aromatics add incredible flavor and depth to any dish, and they’re fairly inexpensive. But did you know that herbs and aromatics also pack tons of health benefits? Here we’re sharing how to use some of our favorites and how they may benefit your health.
A close relative to mint, basil has a floral anise- and clove-like flavor and aroma. There are two main types of basil: Sweet, or Genoese, and Asian. In Western cuisine, basil is most often associated with Mediterranean foods like pesto and tomato sauce. Sweet basil pairs naturally with tomatoes, but it can be used with almost every type of meat or seafood. Asian basil has a more distinct anise flavor and is often used in soups, stews, stir fries and curry pastes. But the benefits of basil go beyond the kitchen. Researchers who studied sweet basil found that it could help control blood pressure and that its fragrance eased stress and relieved anxiety. Clinical trials focused on holy basil found that participants experienced reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
Oregano, a pungent herb primarily found in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines, is one of the few herbs that dries well, so it is easier to find dried oregano than fresh. Oregano can also be used as a substitute for its close cousin, marjoram. Oregano has a range of health benefits. Oregano possesses potent antimicrobial and antiseptic properties to help protect and ward off bacteria and viruses from the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
Garlic is widely used in all types of cooking and cuisines! Its distinct flavor can add a richness and depth to almost any food. While garlic is used as both an herb and a spice, it’s botanically a vegetable! Garlic has been known to help fight off the common cold and some research suggests it can reduce hardening of the arteries. Tip – in order to activate the health promoting properties, chop or crush garlic and let it sit out for 10 minutes before cooking. Garlic needs that time for the beneficial properties to activate.
Spicy, earthy and pungent, ginger adds a kick to any dish! Ginger is well known to aid in a variety of medicinal purposes. Ginger, which is a close relative to turmeric, possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can help ward off colds and has been thought to help ease arthritis pain. Ginger can also improve digestion and help treat nausea. Fresh ginger can be frozen and grated.
A tough, woody herb with a pungent flavor, rosemary's spiky leaves can be used fresh or dried for long cooking in soups, meats, stews or sauces. Although you may want to go easy on it when adding it to food due to its intense flavor, don’t shy away because rosemary has tons of beneficial properties. Rosemary has been shown protect the brain from ag- related changes, including helping with memory function.
What are your favorite herbs and aromatics to use in cooking?
Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care. Written by Maria Noel Groves