‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’
Feb 24, 2018 07:30PM
● By Courtney Shober and Nicholas Kleinsmith
Throughout history, humanity has used herbs and spices as the go-to for health and healing. Every ethnic tradition on Earth has their own unique connection to herbalism, respecting both the culinary and medicinal aspects of herbs. Herbs can create a nostalgic connection to the sights, smells, tastes and textures of a comforting, familiar memory. The aromas of a spice shop, an ethnic culinary kitchen or flower field are reminders of the potent majesty of herbs. These plants have been with us since the beginning and will continue to be with us throughout the ages. Remember, the spice cabinet is the medicinal cabinet.
Incorporating herbs into our daily diet is one of the best ways to harness their nutritional and medicinal benefits. Many of us are already using herbs for their properties but are unaware we are even doing it. An easy example would be caffeinated black and green teas. We are tapping into the caffeinated properties of those particular herbs and using them for our own energy management. There is a vast array of medicinal and nutritional properties of herbs. Fresh basil brightens mood. Ginger tea can bring calm to an upset stomach. Chamomile supports restful sleep.
Herbs are underutilized in most modern home kitchens. Underrated, these sensuous plants are beautiful to look at, fun to prepare, have an incredible spectrum of aromas and add complex flavor to the simplest of dishes. Cooking with herbs is an effective way to increase nutrition and train taste buds into a healthier style of eating. Bursting with vitamins and antioxidants, herbs possess healing, detoxifying and immune boosting properties. Being exposed to diverse and unique seasonings expands our palate, making eating more interesting and enjoyable.
Home cooks shouldn’t be afraid to be more adventurous in the kitchen. Experimenting with flavor combinations and seeking inspiration from different ethnic cuisines leads to the discovery of combinations that are the most exciting and appealing, such as dill and salmon, sage and sweet potato, oregano and tomato, cilantro and lime, lavender and lemon. The possibilities are endless. The more familiar a cook becomes with these wonderful flavors, the more intuitive and fine-tuned their skills become.
Eating seasonally and using locally grown, organic ingredients when possible are important goals for every conscious cook at any stage of experience. Though fresh herbs are super easy to grow at home, if a garden or window box isn’t an option, farmers’ markets are the best place to find high-quality herbs. Soft, delicate herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, chives, parsley and mint are best used chopped and raw as finishers––garnishes with gusto. Their bright, clean taste adds a burst of flavor to dressings, dips, pesto, salads and grain bowls.
During colder months, heartier herb varieties like sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano are great to use dried. They’re best suited for recipes with liquids like soups, so the herbs have a chance to rehydrate and infuse their reviving flavor into the dish being prepared. Dried herbs are more potent, so a one-to-three ratio is standard when converting in a recipe; a teaspoon of dried packs a comparable flavor intensity to a tablespoon of fresh.
Herbs and spices have immense practicality and versatility, and they bring flavor to life.
Courtney Shober is a certified integrative health coach and education coordinator at The Farmhouse Kitchen, in West Reading. For more information, visit CourtneyShober.com and TheFarmhouse-Kitchen.com.
Nicholas Kleinsmith is a master herbalist, nutritional consultant and owner of Miach Herbs, in Fleetwood. For more information, visit MiachHerbs.com.