Herb Gardens and Healthy Uses in Cooking
Ahh, the accompaniment of basil with fresh tomato and mozzarella. The smell of mint leaves as you sip iced tea. A dash of bright cilantro over homemade guacamole. Herbs not only add the look but also lovely scents and flavors to many summer foods and drinks. Herbs are easy to grow and a rich source of antioxidants. Most herbs are sun worshipers making summer the perfect time to start your own herb garden. Further, adding herbs to cooking is a great way to add flavor without the extra sodium and preservatives.
Include these herbs into your summer cooking plans:
Basil is a member of the mint family and common in Italian cooking. Basil can be added to salads and pasta dishes by taking the leaves and crushing them into your hand or snipping leaves with kitchen scissors. Smaller leaves at top of bunch are the sweetest. Nutritionally, Basil is rich in antioxidants and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Chives are a member of the onion family and contain not only vitamin C and calcium, but also other antioxidants. Snip chives with scissors when you are ready to add to a dish. Chive flowers also make a pretty garnish. Chives mild flavor makes it a great addition to a healthy sweet potato salad, pair with eggs or as a topping on dips.
Spearmint and Peppermint can be used in cooking to brighten up both sweet and savory dishes. Add chopped mint to sauces, veggies or potatoes. Use mint as a garnish in summer drinks, such as cucumber and raspberry mint flavored water. Peppermint has a stronger flavor and has been helpful to some with stomach upset.
Rosemary has been shown in some studies to improve cognitive performance. Grow your own or keep a pot in the kitchen and add to Mediterranean dishes like lamb, poultry and fish. Try using sturdier stems as skewers in grilling.
Thyme is a rich source of potassium, iron, calcium and manganese as well as a source of antioxidants. Thyme can be used as a rub when cooking salmon or add fresh thyme to chicken salad and chicken soup. Strip leaves from stems by pulling through fork tines.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking with Herbs:
- When using fresh herbs, add them toward the end of cooking.
- When using fresh herbs in place of dried use two to four times more fresh herbs.
- Wash herbs only when you are ready to use them.
Skylar’s Bottom Line: Especially for those with high blood pressure, using herbs and seasonings over salted seasonings is a healthy way to add flavor to foods without adding extra sodium. Have fun with the cooking process by experimenting with different dishes this summer.
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