I grew up in the northern tablelands of NSW, and although as a child we lived on a small farm, I do not remember having any herbs planted in our family garden and did not really come to recognize the value and benefits of herbs till much later in life.
Many of our meals as children would be the traditional meat and three veg, with no real flavours standing out. As I became more involved with cooking I thought I was clever coming up with short cuts to add flavour to dishes….such as adding the good old french onion soup mix to jazz up dishes and add an extra taste, not knowing that all I was doing was adding a chemical cocktail to our meals.
I began to experiment more with flavours and started to introduce more raw food into our diet, we actually started to taste the delicious flavours that fresh herbs can add to recipes and our taste buds started to change.
I no longer buy any processed packet mixes and, in fact, buy very little from many of the isles in the supermarkets. Next time you are tempted to buy a processed packet from the supermarket to enhance your meals, such as sauces, gravies, spice mixes…check out the back and read the chemical feast that lies inside the packet. You will be shocked to see how many processed flavours and additives are in any and all processed foods on the supermarket shelves. Just think about how food can stay that long on shelves…if it claims to have fresh produce in it, it will not have a very long use by date! If you would like to become more educated in how processed food is created…there is a great book called Pandora’s Lunchbox written by Melanie Warner…it is quite horrifying how our food gets processed and how some of the toxic additives are allowed to be used…definitely worth a read…if you dare!
I love my fresh herbs and some of my favourites are rosemary, thyme, oregano, dill and coriander…along with parsley and many others. My husband can now actually pick out certain herbs in dishes and is very proud of his new found appreciation and recognition of fresh herbs.
As a raw food vegan chef, I find the use of fresh herbs builds the flavour of the dish and excites the pallet, rather than traditional cooking where you try and cook the flavour in and in the process destroy all the nutrients from your beautiful veggies.
Herbs contain unique anti-oxidants, essential oils, vitamins, phyto-sterols and many other plants derived nutrient substances, which help equip our body to fight against germs, toxins and to boost immunity level. Herbs are, in fact, medicines in smaller dosages.
Essential oils in herbs have been found to have anti-inflammatory function and many unique compounds in the healthy herbs have been found to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics. Controlled-epidemiological studies have shown that certain compounds in garlic like those that thiosulfinates (allicin) can bring significant reduction in total cholesterol and in blood pressure, and thereby, helps cut down coronary artery disease and stroke risk.
Herbs are a great addition to food, not just because they add special flavor and spicy taste to our food, but also contain many anti-microbial substances that help keep our food protected from these agents. In general, herbs are used in small amounts while preparing recipes. They actually, provide flavor rather than substance to the food we eat
Rosemary can boost your brain power – Performance and Nutrition Research Centre in the U.K. reported that having higher blood levels of one of this herb’s main chemical compounds (absorbed from its aroma) was linked to the speed and accuracy of study participants’ cognitive performance. The higher the level of the compound in the blood, the better the outcome.
Parsley can help prevent breast cancer -Toss parsley into salads for its high levels of apigenin. A study in Cancer Prevention Research showed that when rats with a certain type of breast cancer were exposed to apigenin, they developed fewer tumors and had delays in tumor formation compared to rats not exposed. Apigenin blocked the creation of new blood vessels required for tumors to grow and multiply.
Peppermint can soothe your colon. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects quite a significant number of people with many more women affected than men. Scientists at the University of Adelaide in Australia showed how peppermint helps to relieve IBS by activating an anti-pain channel in the colon. It reduced pain-sensing fibres, particularly those activated by eating chili and mustard.
Oregano helps fight inflammation – Research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that whenmice with inflamed paws were treated with oregano’s active ingredient—beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP)—the swelling subsided in 70 percent of cases. E-BCP links to structures in a cell’s membrane, inhibiting the production of substances that signal inflammation.
Fresh thyme provides your antioxidants. Among fresh herbs, thyme has the second-highest amount of antioxidants (sage has slightly more), according to its oxygen radical absorbance capacity—a measure of a food’s ability to fight off disease-causing free radicals in our body. Thyme is also a very good source of vitamins A and C, as well as iron and dietary fibre.
Dill contains numerous plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties. This popular herb holds many anti-oxidants, vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine, etc., and dietary fibers, which help in controlling blood cholesterol levels.
Coriander is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K. Its deep-green leaves possess good amounts of antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and dietary fiber, which may help reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol” levels in the blood. The leaves and a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also rich in many vital vitamins, including folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-A, beta carotene, vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum health.
There are other herbs and spices such as turmeric with enormous health properties….however if I keep going I will end up writing a short story…Thank goodness for google! If you have a favourite herb, head to google and research its health properties and you can also google some recipes and how to use fresh herbs and what other flavours you can match them with.
As you can see by my photos, the other great thing about herbs is that you can plant them anywhere in your garden, you don’t have to have a special garden bed. We have them growing in all different locations and they do very well. Oregano makes a lovely ground cover and thyme is really very cute in a flowering garden as it has very tiny little white flowers, and of course rosemary thrives wherever you plant it.
Why feed your family with chemical flavours when you have a relatively easy option of using some fresh or even dried herbs to add natural more nutritious flavours to your meals.
I hope this gives you inspiration to at least try some more fresh herbs in your recipes…you never know you may just happen to become addicted to the lovely fresh natural flavours that nature has to offer.
Yours in good health