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Do You Cook With These Useful Herbs?
Some of the herbs talked about here will be familiar to you, others will not. I grow a few of them in my garden, and the rest come from the supermarket.
No matter where they come from, these herbs are those I won't do without in my kitchen, or enjoy having in my garden for their great scents. There is some native Australian mint in my garden, but so far I haven't cooked with it.
The picture is a close-up of mint in flower. I love the scent of mint when you brush against it.
Are you surprised that lavendar can be used in cooking? I know I was, so I did a little reading about it.
Lavendar is a member of the mint family, and its Latin name is L. angustifolia. It is related to sages, thymes, rosemary, savoury, oregano, and balms.
There are many types of lavendar, but the English variety is the strongest and is most used in cooking. Both the leaves and the flowers can be used when fresh, and buds and stems can be dried. Lavendar leaves can be used in the same way as rosemary.
By the way, I've checked and the correct spelling of lavendar is with the AR, but Er may be used also. :-)
Lavendar flavoured honey - a sweet treet!
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family. It is native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean. It is a perennial, and grows up to 80 cm tall. The flowers are purple spikes.
Oregano is often used on pizza, and is a common ingredient in Italian and Mexican cooking.
It is a rich source of Vitamin K, has some anti-oxidant qualities, and also has some anti-bacterial properties. Oregano is high in iron and manganese, and contains other minerals. It is also rich in fibre (when fresh) and contains omega-3 fatty acids.
Try oregano in your cooking - it will add a little spice, not to mention great taste.
Do you use herbs in your cooking?
Common basil is also known as sweet basil. It is native to the tropics of India, Africa, and Asia.
Basil is a member of the mint family. Bush Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a small shrub, one of several varieties of this herb. It's a herb I don't use much at present, but will be adding it to my kitchen soon. The name 'Basil" comes from an old Greek work for king or royal.
Basil for Health
Iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C are found in basil, which also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese and Vitamin A.
Basil is sometimes used in herbal teas for the treatment of digestive problems. Basil is also reputed to have a sedative effect, so it may be good to drink when feeling stressed. It can be used for treating stomach cramps and vomiting, among other problems.
When using fresh basil in cooking, it should be added when the food is almost ready, as too long cooking ruins the flavour.
Basil in Cooking
It is one of the ingredients of pesto.
Add it to soups. Put a few leaves in your green salad. Use it in marinades
Basil is very good when used with tomatoes.
Chop some fresh basil and sprinkle it over your vegetables for a really different flavour.
Basil in Folklore
- Some Indians believe that the divine essence is held in basil.
- Mexicans use it as a love potion.
- Basil is used to prepare holy water in some churches, as it is reputed to have been found growing near Christ's tomb.
- Africans claim it can protect against scorpions.
- In Haitian Voodoo, basil is sacred to the Goddess Erzulie.
- In ancient Greece and Egypt, basil was believed to open the gates of heaven for the dying.
As you can see, there is a lot more to basil than you'd first believe.
Every kitchen needs a really good pair of herb scissors, and these fit the bill.
Parsley is another herb with many uses. It's often used in white sauce, when it adds a slightly peppery flavour to the sauce, and it is often eaten with white fish.
One of my favourite uses for it is making parsley wine. This wine is white, on the dry side, and goes well with chicken and fish, or just enjoy a relaxing glass in the evening.
Parsley also has some medicinal uses. It may be a diuretic, and is reputed to help bad breath. Parsley contains apigenin, a chemical with alleged anti-cancer qualities. It is not recommended in large doses for pregnant women.
There are lots of varieties of mint, and the photo is apple mint growing wild.
Mint is one of the easiest herbs to grow, and has very many uses, far too many for me to list here. Mint can be used either fresh or dried.
One of my favourite ways to use it, is chopped fresh with melted butter over small new potatoes - yummy! Add a little garlic for extra flavour.
Some Varieties of Mint:
- Chocolate Mint,
- Apple Mint,
- Orange Mint,
- and many more.
In my garden, I have some native Australian mint, which has a really strong aroma. I love to touch it when gardening, as it releases a beautiful scent when brushed against.
Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin B2. It is also claimed to be an antioxident.
Books About Herbs
Everything you need to know to start your own herb garden
Thyme attracts bees to your garden, which is always a good thing for fertilizing your plants. It is used in pot pourri, and may be added to some deodorants.
Have your heard of Benedictine, a very strong liqueur? Thyme is one of the ingredients used in this drink.
Thyme contains iron, and is a good source of this mineral. It is frequently used in cooking, and its flavour goes very well with some meats. It also adds flavour to honey.
The ancient Egyptians used thyme for enbalming.
Rosemary is often used as a landscaping plant. It is hardy and attractive. The image is the blue rosemary in my garden.
Rosemary is reputed to repel mosquitoes, and some say it also repels cats.
It is used in the kitchen as a very useful herb. A sprig of rosemary on the lamb roast adds a very nice flavour.
This herb is known as the herb of remembrance, and sprigs of rosemary are often worn on commemorative days.
It is also used in bath oils, and various herbal ointments.
Dill adds a really nice smokey flavour to recipes. I particularly like it in a chicken casserole, but be careful not to overdo it!
It is a very easy herb to grow, and enjoys the sun, but will tolerate the shade. Grow it from seed, or get seedlings from a nursery.
Dill grows to about 1 metre, so needs a little space at the back of the herb garden. It will happily seed itself and can become a pest, so you'll have to keep it in check.
"How can a man die who has sage in his garden"
The common sage in flower is shown in the image.
There are many types of sage, and unfortunately, I've had no luck in growing the common sage, clary sage,or the variegated variety. I have some white sage, and have just planted a couple of the ordinary sage, Salvia officianalis. White sage is commonly used to make smudge sticks, and is regarded as a cleansing herb.
In the kitchen, uses for sage are many. It is an important ingredient in stuffing poultry and fish. We always used it in home made stuffing when I was a child, and I still remember the great flavour.
Garlic is sometimes classed as a herb and sometimes as a vegetable. It's in the onion family, so could be a vegetable, however, I always use it as a herb, so here it is on this lens.
Garlic's latin name is Allium sativum, and it is related to chives, leeks, onions, and similar plants. It has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years.
It is rich in antioxidants, and is sometimes used in the prevention of heart disease. Garlic also has been used as an anti-coagulant.
Garlic can be used in salads, as a flavouring for sauces, roasted as a vegetable, and scores of other uses. Raw garlic is the strongest flavoured kind, and the smaller you cut it, the stronger the flavour, as more of it is exposed to the air.
Don't go overboard with garlic in your cooking, as it is easy to overdo it, especially if you love it as much as I do. Other people don't always care for it, and some are allergic to it.
Corsican mint, or Mentha requienii, is native to Corsica, Sardinia, France, and mainland Italy. It can grow up to 10 cm, although 3 - 4 cm is more usual.
This mint is used as the flavouring in Creme de Menthe. It is said to repel insects when used as a companion plant to the cabbage (brassica) family.
Although I haven't used this plant in cooking, I have used it as a ground cover in areas not much walked on, as it is quite hardy. It does not like to be over watered, and will grow well in shaded areas.