I think we can all agree that sometimes life feels a little “blah.”
There comes a time when we become tired with the monotonous day-to-day activities and need something different. Whether its going for a therapeutic run, seeing a favorite movie, or getting a scoop (or two) of your favorite ice cream (lemon cookie), we all need some spicing up in our lives from time to time.
When it comes to cooking, herbs are nature’s wonderful gifts to jazz up our food when it begins to feel a little boring. Sold at farmers markets and your local grocery stores, there are many varieties accessible to all of us! On top of that, they’re inexpensive, full of health benefits, and easy to use… need I say more? Follow this easy guide to understand more about herbs and how to incorporate them into your meals. Before you know it, your ordinary food will be popping with fresh flavors!
At the Store
When buying fresh herbs there are some key points to keep in mind.
- Vibrant color and aroma
- Fresh appearance
- Crisp stems
- Limp or wilting leaves
- Yellow or black spots
- Damaged stems and leaves
- Dry appearance
How to Store Herbs
Store in a damp paper towel in a sealed plastic bag filled with air. Most herbs will last refrigerated for up to five days, but some may lose their flavor after a couple of days. Wash with cool water right before using and pat dry!
You can also freeze herbs by rinsing, patting dry, and transferring to a sheet pan to freeze. After the herbs are frozen, transfer them to a freezer proof bag and freeze up to 1 month.
There are many varieties of basil but Sweet Basil is the most common; it gets its name from the sweet aroma the stem and leaves give off. Basil was traditionally used as a medicine for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. This herb is a good source of:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
Ways to use fresh basil:
- Paired with tomatoes used in tomato dishes, such as tomato sauces
- Infused olive oil
- Tossed with salads (tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella, etc.)
Did you know that dill was used in the Middle Ages to protect against witchcraft? Today it is used as a remedy for digestive problems and loss of appetite. It also contains:
- Vitamin A and C
Pairs well with:
Add dill towards the end of the cooking process so that the heat doesn’t destroy the delicate flavor.
Take advantage of this seasoning by adding peppermint to drinks and food for a refreshing burst of flavor. Peppermint can be used whole, torn, or muddled. Try using this herb in:
- Iced tea
- Add torn leaves to sliced strawberries
- Toss in a fruit salad
- Freeze leaves inside ice cubes
- Add one or two leaves to steamed vegetables and remove before serving
- Relieves abdominal discomfort (cramping, pain, and bloating)
- Contains Rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to be beneficial in reducing asthma symptoms.
- Reduces heartburn
- Soothes headaches by applying peppermint oil topically
Cilantro has a bright flavor that will pop in any dish! I love using this herb but when I’m left with a large bundle – what do I do with it?? Here are some fun ways to incorporate this herb into your cooking:
- Stir chopped cilantro into cooked brown rice
- Mix it into salsa and guacamole
- For a quick sauce, blend it with a cup of Greek yogurt and a jalapeno
- Make cilantro pesto
Use cilantro in a dish by chopping the leaves and stems or simply by using the leaves whole.
Health benefits include:
- Reduces bad cholesterol
- Good source of fiber
- Leaves are rich in antioxidants
- High in vitamin A and K
Chives belong to the same family as garlic, onions, and leeks. With a mild onion flavor, chives make a great substitute for those who are looking for an onion alternative. Here are some ways to use chives:
- Mix chopped chives with Greek yogurt and dollop it on a baked potato
- Use in scrambled eggs and frittatas
- Used chives in homemade salad dressings (chives, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and olive oil)
- Make a simple sauce with Greek yogurt, lemon, salt, pepper, and chives to serve over fish or chicken
Not only do chives provide a fresh and aromatic flavor, they also contain:
- Contain Allicin, which reduces bad cholesterol and increased good cholesterol
- Folic Acid
- Antioxidants that help protect against cancer
Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below.