They say, “Herbs are the pride of physicians and the friend of cooks.” It’s right as these soft, juicy, green, and short plants have perfect qualities that enhance taste and have a great nutritious punch.
Luckily, Mother Nature offers many aromatic, flavourful, and healthy edible herbs that improve food significantly. Moreover, each has unique properties and flavors, making them diverse. To explore them, keep reading, as here is everything about the benefits of edible herbs, their types, and more.
Let’s explore the realm of edible herbs.
Here are some incredible benefits of incorporating edible herbs
Herbs add balancing and layering flavors, bringing out the best out of any dish. They have aromatic oils which infuse in the food after chopping or heating. For example, the sweetness of basil balances the strong garlic in pesto sauce pasta, and rosemary’s strong earthy aroma and flavor balances the roasted meats.
Also, a pinch of thyme can add rich flavors to raw stew. They create a perfect blend of flavors and aroma that looks great, adds texture, and brings incredible flavors.
Nutritional Value of Edible Herbs
The aromatic, flavorful herbs contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The culinary uses of edible herbs have always laid stress on their amazing properties. For example, mint, parsley, and basil have vitamins A and C. They also have various types of flavonoids, which have mind-blowing antioxidant properties.
Cilantro has Quercetin, kaempferol, and essential oils . Also, the aromatic and refreshing mints have Menthol, rosmarinic acid, and flavonoids like quercetin. Basil has eugenol, which helps minimize the symptoms of gastrointestinal complaints. The therapeutic and healing rosemary has carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid, and essential oils. One common thing in them are great vitamins, minerals, and certain compounds, which have therapeutic properties.
Visualize a bowl of creamy soup garnished with chopped chives. It looks presentable, layered, and textured and adds new colors. Also, cilantro in aglio olio looks like a perfect green and creamy color made for one another. Moreover, presentation is one important aspect of cooking, and herbs are one of the best choices to enhance it.
Here are some of the popular and most common edible herbs:
Ocimum basilicum, known as Basil, is a globally celebrated herb. It has lush green small leaves and a bit of woody stem. Coming to the aroma, it has licorice, sweet and peppery-like fragrances. Moreover, many regions have various species of Basil, which enhance the food with their distinctive properties, like sweet Basil, lemon basil, etc.
It has Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, vitamins A and K, and antioxidants. It’s widely used to make pesto sauce, which is basil sauce for preparing kinds of pasta and other dishes. Plus, it garnishes soups and salads perfectly. Many beverages have a therapeutic addition of basil, which adds a soothing factor.
When you think of mint, it immediately fills you up with coolness. Its refreshing, sweet, and strong flavors are heavenly. It has methanol, which has cooling effects and is good for digestive health.
Its sweet, cool, refreshing flavor pairs well with teas, mojitos, mint sauce, yogurt dips, sandwiches, and more. It is also packed with vitamins A and C, which are an important part of a balanced diet. You can garnish salads, soups, and other dishes with mint.
Cilantro is everywhere and the go-to herb to garnish and enhance any food—it has loud, sweet, citrus, and peppery flavors. The aroma and flavors are strong. Indian food has coriander(seeds) in abundance. They love to garnish every dish with chopped coriander. Also, it’s widely used for making various types of sauces.
Moreover, it’s one of the popular ingredients for sushi, Thai cuisine, and Mexican food. Additionally, it has vitamins C and K, fiber, and antioxidants. It’s quite a versatile herb, which goes well with many dishes. It’s easily available worldwide and the favorite of the masses.
Parsley is one of the most common edible herbs. It has mild, earthy, peppery aromas and flavors. This adds subtle flavor to dishes without masking the other ingredients. Just like other herbs, it has so many varieties around the world. There are two types of parsley – the flat-leaved Italian parsley is good for cooking, and curly parsley is best for garnishing.
Moreover, it pairs well with pasta, soups, and salads; many dishes have chopped parsley to add texture. You can add it to prepare flavorful sauces, too. It can also be used to prepare parsley butter and some potato dishes. Regarding nutritional facts, it’s loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and iron. This makes it a healthy ingredient for everyday food.
Rosemary has been in use for ages. But now it has become one of the best herbs for eating. Not only this, but it also had great benefits on the skin and hair. It has resins like pine, woody, and strong earth flavors.
Its amazing and flavourful profile makes it a great addition to roasted meats, bread, soups, stews, etc. Even rosemary tea is known for its healing and delicious delight. Also, it has vitamins A and C, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, and other flavonoids, which are a great addition to the diet.
Here’s everything about growing and cultivating edible herbs:
Like those discussed, the most common edible herbs require a suitable location to flourish well. The best edible herbs need abundant sunshine to reach their maximum potential. Therefore, they should face south or west whether it’s an indoor or outdoor location. Also, choose an accessible site so you can pick your favorite herbs anytime during cooking.
You can reap the benefits of edible herbs only when they have an ideal growing environment. The soil should have a good draining system when it comes to herbs.
For watering, there are different needs. The potted plants need more water than ground ones as they can’t draw moisture from the ground. Herbs like chives and basil are good with watering once or twice a week. But mint and cilantro may need daily watering according to the seasons, location, sunlight, etc.
You can try various methods like seeds, cuttings, and transplants. You can plant seeds indoors in a tray or pot at an equal distance and let them grow. It works well for basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley.
You can also try cutting stems from rosemary, Mint, and thyme to plant them. Moreover, they will grow healthy with the help of rooting hormones, sufficient light, and water to nurture. Always choose a healthy parent plant for this.
Check how to harvest and preserve edible herbs:
The right harvesting timing helps you to have the maximum benefits of edible herbs. You can harvest annual herbs until frost; a perennial one is good to harvest till August. However, it would help if you harvested them when their aroma and oils are at their peak.
Also, harvest them before they flower. Moreover, the best time of the day to harvest is in the morning after the dew dries before the intense heat. Also, practice pruning( skilled cutting of leaves and branches) to boost healthy and bushy plant growth.
You can preserve herbs in plenty of ways. Majorly, it’s air-dried but not under direct sunlight. Also, you can microwave them for quick preservation. Secondly, you can refrigerate them. Some people also love to infuse them with olive oil or vinegar. Moreover, you can make various sauces and store them for long use.
Culinary Uses and Pairings for Edible Herbs
Here are some of the best culinary uses and pairings:
Cooking with Fresh Edible Herbs
You can use fresh herbs to chop and garnish them over various dishes to enhance or balance the flavors. Also, herbs like basil, when cooked for pasta, etc., have a great creamy and rejuvenating texture.
The cilantro often goes great with dips and garnishing on top. Also, herbs like rosemary should go well with many things. You can dress various foods with it or use it in cooking for its strong earthy flavors.
Edible Herb Combinations and Pairings
Various herbs complement different cuisines and dishes. For example, basil goes well with Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. Also, cilantro is used a lot in Asian and Latin American cooking. Similarly, mint in Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine and rosemary with baked and roasted foods. The coriander (cilantro seeds) are widely used in Indian cooking in raw and powder form.
The trick is to use them as enhancers over the dish or as a core ingredient to balance the taste. Moreover, you can experiment and see what suits you best.
This was about edible herbs’ benefits, properties, growing, harvesting, and preserving tips. The culinary uses of edible herbs are immense and spread out worldwide. No matter their species, they are fantastic ways to enhance the flavors and add aroma. Plus, its nutritional properties are a bonus. So, read all the above points and embrace herbs more for their incredible benefits.