Every Herb As Food

Fly Geyser | A Look Back To Eden / The Pangaea
Fly Geyser | A Look Back To Eden / The Pangaea
Göbekli Tepe 10,000 BCE
Göbekli Tepe 10,000 BCE

Whether or not we, the pre-future humanity, accept or believe in ancient concepts -be they sensational or scientific- must concede that humanity was, and in many ways, still is the dominant entity on planet earth. We have a purpose beyond our gadgets and giddiness for living the good life. We should be living longer, healthier and happier. Did our ancestors know more than us about health, even without modern scientific data? Can we use their approach to benefit ourselves today? Let's take a look...

The above photograph is an aerial view of the center of Göbekli Tepe, radio-dated at 10,000 BCE, suggesting it was built nearly 12,000 Gregorian years ago. Add to this clear evidence of human existence at the end of the last ice-age, where they hunted Woolly Mammoth and built small but fortified cities -and even fished and farmed along the banks of what is today the Sahara desert. Going back through time allows us to glimpse into how we lived, moved about and especially what we ate.

Assuming at one time Earth was a Pangaea-like world, implies many things from our ability to migrate to our relationship with the surrounding elements. Seems there was very different atmosphere, as evidenced by the size of early humans and structures built -like the many monoliths and pyramids around the world -especially in the Mesopotamian region, suggests our ancestors were 2~4 meters (7-15 feet) in stature. Not only humans, but animals and vegetation much larger. With such stature comes the need for a very powerful diet, rich in every major vitamin and mineral you can possibly think of. Suffice to say "back in the day" under such conditions said nutrients were in abundant supply. But, what about today?

According to a quote, written some 6,000 Gregorian years ago, humans were more -or completely- herbivorous. Well, at least they were supposed to be, if the quote is accurate.

"I give you every herb bearing seed, and every tree with fruit bearing seed from all of the earth. It shall be for you as food"

— Genesis 1.29

Following the storyline, coupled with recent archeological evidence, sustains the idea that a change in atmosphere occurred, resulting in the pre-industrialized environment we currently exist in. And it seems, at some point pre or post, humans altered their diet, either due to a lack of saturated nutrition or some other reason, to become more omnivorous and carnivorous. By default, our stature and longevity also diminished. Either way, it is interesting to see if we can maintain optimal health based on a diet rich in herbs and green plants alone. Is the quote accurate; should we be eating grass instead-of steak?

As a former professional chef, I have always enjoyed using herbs to cook. Just the look and feel of them alone is appealing. Add to that appeal their natural aroma -just so inviting. Yet, it never occurred to me that eating large quantities of herbs was good for human health. If fact, everything I was taught about herbs from the masters was they were strictly for decoration, mild flavor enhancement or ancient at-home medicinal uses. It was not until recently, when my own health came under fire, that I revisited my roots, as it were, of culinary life and uncovered a profound and fascinating set of facts about herbs.

As mentioned in another Hub, the human being needs specific levels of vitamins and minerals to maintain and promote optimal health. The primary mix is Vitamin A, B, C and D along with Omega 3-6-9 and minerals like Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, etc. The most important part of getting these nutrients is where we source them from: plant, animal, water, pre-packaged, cans, boxes, methane enriched NYC pretzel carts -you get the picture.

First, it is important to note there are literally thousands of varieties of herbs that can be used for food. But, I wouldn't just run-off and grab a bunch of anything and start munching, be it in the garden or Trader Joes.

Herb Superfoods

Let's go back for a moment to the quote from Genesis. There is an important element within the statement about optimizing our health: with seed. Those two little words provide an understanding of which herbs to eat AND when to eat them. First, the herb must contain seeds. Yes, some herbs and many other flowering plants do not necessarily go-to seed but regenerate using bulbs or underground tubers. But, for the most part, nearly every plant has seeds. The highlight is when to eat them. Again, from the culinary perspective, the best time to harvest and consume herbs is just before they flower and go-to seed. At this point, the leaves are full, dark green and at their highest levels of nutrient saturation. So, the quote, so far, matches up. Green herbs/plants with seed at their peak.

The question now is which ones to eat. According to the quote we can eat all of them! And that's a huge number. So, to shorten the list and find the most potent, I did some research on a few common herbs that can be classified as Superfoods. Pencils ready? Great. Firstly, note that all 5 of the herbs listed are considered decorations on food plates -they have been for years. It is not a coincidence. Each was once a large part of human diet. All are nutrient rich; natural breath-fresheners/tooth cleansers, anti-oxidants, immune boosters, regulatory agents, and so much more.

It should be noted that all five of the following herbs are classified a soft herbs versus hard herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano.

100 grams
3.5 ounces
.75 cup
Note: RDA % should be divided into the unit of measure and multiplied by 200 for total daily intake of each nutrient, as the RDA is a low to mid range average. The volumes below represent a serving of 100g UNPACKED herbs.
Curly Parley
Curly Parley
Nutrient
Volume
Omega 3, 6
8mg, 115mg
Protein
3g
Vitamin A
8,500 IU
Vitamin C
135mg
Vitamin B6, B9, B12
1.6mg, 0.2mg, 150mcg
Vitamin E
0.7mg
Vitamin K
1640mcg
Calcium
268mg
Phosphorus
66mg
Potassium
738mg

Curly Parsley

(petroselinum crispum)

Everyone knows this herb all too well. What we seem not aware of is how nutritionally beneficial this decorative plant is. Parsley is both an biannual and annual flowering herb that has been cultivated for thousands of years, primarily in the Sinai Peninsula, north Africa and southern European regions. It is also now widely cultivated in Western Asia and the Americas.

Curly Parsley tends to do very well in more tropical climates, where moisture (humidity) is more concentrated and areas where the terrain is rockier. In fact, the name Petroselinum crispum literally translates "petra" or crispy "rock" parsley.

The main benefit of this herb is its high levels of Vitamin A, C & K as well as Calcium, Phosphorus and Potassium. A, C, K are required to build and rebuild tissue and bone in human body. Studies have proven that diets rich in these nutrients not only increase the bodies natural development and repair, but also prevent ailments to begin with, slowing the aging process, stimulating more robust muscle strength, gum/tooth regrowth, etc.

Parsley is not a very pungent herb so eating it in regular quantities alone is fairly simple. It may not be fashionable to be seen munching on a bunch, but rest-assured it is one herb you definitely want with at least one or two meals per day. For those who cringe at the thought of eating parsley as-is, will be excited to know there are many ways to incorporate it into your diet from finely chopping it and blending with other foods, as an add-in to salads or even a cold pesto (dip). Both the stem and leaves can be eaten. A huge notation about this, and the other herbs: they should never be cooked for more than a minute, else completely lose all nutritional value.

Spearmint
Spearmint
Nutrient
Volume
Omega 3, 6
435mg, 70mg
Protein
4g
Vitamin A
4,250 IU
Vitamin C
32mg
Vitamin B6, B9, B12
0.1mg, 144mcg, n/a
Vitamin E
n/a
Vitamin K
n/a
Calcium
200mg
Phosphorus
60mg
Potassium
460mg

Spearmint

(Mentha spicata)

Commonly called Garden Mint, Spearmint is one herb with amazing nutritional properties. Not to be confused with Peppermint or Creek Mint, which is a naturally occurring, seedless hybrid. Spearmint is a very aromatic herb yet very low in menthol, so it can be eaten in larger quantities versus peppermint, etc. It has been cultivated for thousands of years nearly everywhere in the world. Its uses are many from décor and aromatherapy to natural pesticide and toothpaste flavoring.

It sounds odd the thought of eating Spearmint as-is, unlike the common single-leaf on vanilla ice cream, Mojito mash or Touareg Tea infusion. Because it is a more scented herb, compared to the neutral parsley, folks tend to shy-away from consuming it.

One of the primary health benefits of Spearmint is its effect on the human mouth. It is a brilliant antioxidant that stops halitosis in its tracks and also the production of the bacteria which cause soft plaque and calculus (hardened plaque). It also stimulates gum growth and helps clear the sinuses -which have now been directly linked to overall human health plus wonderful skin benefits like acne, blackhead and even wrinkle reduction.

One thing to definitely mention about Spearmint is that it contains over 400mg of Omega 3 essential fatty-acid, in just a single serving, and 200mg of Calcium. All this from a plant? Outstanding! What's more, Spearmint is very high in Iron, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese adding to the benefits list. Those who exercise, "workout" a lot, suffer chronic muscle fatigue or bone weakness would do well to add this herb to their daily regimen.

Spearmint can get intense in larger quantities, so a good way to offset the flavor strength is to blend it with soft cheeses, like ricotta or cottage and especially yogurt. Also makes a nice alternative in salsa.

Dill
Dill
Nutrient
Volume
Protein
3.5g
Omega 3, 6
13mg, 82mg
Vitamin A
7720 IU
Vitamin C
85mg
Vitamin B6, B9, B12
1.1mg, 0.1mg, 62mcg
Vitamin E
n/a
Vitamin K
n/a
Calcium
268mg
Phosphorus
66mg
Postassium
740mg

Dill

(Anethum graveolens)

The origin of the name of this herb is unknown, but its propriety health benefits are. Know to most a "Dill Weed", this herb is not actually a Weed. It is a fern. Dill is believed to have been around since prehistoric times. It is found growing freely in the Fertile Crescent and used by Middle Eastern, Norse, Asian and all the Caucus regions. In the Americas, Dill is often associated with pickling or pickles, where the seeds are infused into pickling liquids for its unique and very distinct flavor.

Dill is uber-rich in minerals like Potassium and Calcium, as well as Vitamin A and B9 (Folate). It can be eaten as-is, or like the other herbs, blended with food stuff to tone its flavor. Generally speaking, Dill is not a very pungent herb -much like parsley, but it does take some getting used-to if you have never made it apart of your diet. Since it is a fern-like plant, requires low moisture and cool storage, as the soft leaves are very tender.


Coriander
Coriander
Nutrient
Volume
Protein
2.5g
Omega 3, 6
t, 40mg
Vitamin A
6750 IU
Vitamin C
28mg
Vitamin B6, B9, B12
n/a, 0.1mg, 62mcg
Vitamin E
2.5mg
Vitamin K
310mg
Calcium
68mg
Phosphorus
48mg
Potassium
520mg

Coriander

(Coriandrum sativum)

Who doesn't love this herb? Most people do. It is often called Cilantro or Chinese Parsley and best known for its addition to Mexican food dishes. But Coriander is so much more than a salsa sprinkling. It has been a stable cultivation for over 3,000 years in the lower Mesopotamian region and Asia, especially in India and Thailand., as well as China and Mongolia.

Like its cousin, Parsley, Coriander carries excellent nutritional benefits for humans, in small and larger quantities. The obvious is it is another of the breath fresheners. In addition, coriander contains incredible amounts of Vitamin A, K and Folate (B9) plus a great source of Potassium. The truly unique thing about coriander is its flavor. It is such a lovely aromatic and needs little to be of benefit to the body.

Watercress
Watercress
Nutrient
Volume
Protein
3g
Omega 3, 6
23mg, 12mg
Vitamin A
3200 IU
Vitamin C
43mg
Vitamin B6, B9, B12
0.1mg , 9.0mcg , trace
Vitamin E
1mg
Vitamin K
250mcg
Calcium
120mg
Phosphorus
60mg
Potassium
350mg

Watercress

( Nasturtium officinale )

If, by some unfortunate event, you do not know this outstanding herb, please get to know it! Watercress is said to be THE oldest known consumed herb by humans, cultivated for over 7,000 common years. Its health benefits are literally "off the charts". It's name, you might have noted, includes the term Nasturtium, which we in the food-biz know as one of the most delicious, edible-flowers available. Watercress relatives include Mustard, Radish, Wasabi and other cabbages.

What is unique about Watercress is first: its flavor. It has a wonderful peppery-ish taste, crisp crunch and cooling refresh because of its high water content. The herb grows best in semi-aquatic environments and alkaline rich streams. As a flowering/seed herb, its growth and harvest are important because after going to seed, Watercress becomes very bitter. As a general rule, consumed cress should stand no taller than 12cm (5 inches), leaves dark green, but not black.

Because of its intense up-front flavor I recommend sauteing in butter for about one minute, else toning down the flavor using various semisoft cheeses. Best is fresh and raw.

As for nutrition, again, brilliant. Just one serving (half a bunch) of watercress contains 3200 IU of Vitamin A, 50mg Vitamin C, 120mg Calcium and 350mg Potassium. It is also rich in Omega 3 & 6.


Herb Poll

Which Herbs Do You Eat

See results without voting

Herbology v Urbanology

Fascinating, yes? Such a bounty of health benefits from a simple collection of just five herbs. As mentioned, there are literally thousands of herbs we humans can consume, despite our post-pangaea urbanology of pre-packaged foods. Even to note that Organic isn't as nutritious, if sourced from "dead earth". Yet, with a little "resurrecting" of the ancient practice of cultivating herbs for better health, we can reduce and thoroughly remove nearly every ailment from Acne to Cancer, Depression to our own Mortality rate. And because of their potent levels of Vitamin A & C, herbs make excellent tooth cleansers (without the harsh chems), are natural breath-fresheners, skin, bone and tissue regenerators -and so much more.

Seems true, our ancestors knew much about the land and how many herbs benefitted their overall well being. The only downside to this, is the lack of two main nutrients humans need: Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. In case of the later, it is interesting to note the entire Fertile Crescent -and much of the world at one time- consumed a food very rich in B12: Lamb (one of my personal favourite meats. Yes, I am an omnivore :) As for Vitamin D, we can get plenty of that from just being out in the sun so our own bodies can produce it.


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Comments 2 comments

word55 profile image

word55 19 months ago from Chicago

Excellent information on herbs. A few years ago a neighbor of mine used to ask permission to come in my yard to pick either spearmint or peppermint leaves. I thought they were meerly weeds so, I said no problem, at anytime. One day, I saw her just eat a couple of them. Now, thanks to you, I know that value of those herbs. Thanks for sharing.


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 19 months ago from Orlando Florida

This is a wonderful compilation of information about herbs. I grow some herbs in my garden, including two that you mention, curly parsley and spearmint. ( could only pick one in your poll.) I will definitely be sure to eat more of them. Taboulie uses a lot of parsley. Voted up++

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