A Gift From Mother Nature

Basil For Beginners

Herbs For Flavor
And Flair

Herbs The Friendly Plants

Home Made Herbal Teas


Herbs For Flavour And Flair

Herbs add flavour colour, and interest - not to mention health benefits to your food. Cooking and seasoning foods with herbs adds a gourmet touch to the meals you prepare. Imagine offering your family Ocean Whitefish with Lemon-parsley Sauce or Chicken Tarragon for supper instead of just "Fish" or "Chicken". Their lunch boxes could contain Sandwiches with Herbed Cheese filling, Salad with Dill Dressing, Tansy Cakes, and a flask of Lemon Balm Tea. Herbal spreads and dressings are easy to make, but make you look like a professional chef, and provide great ways to ass interest to foods.

For thousands of years, ever since man nibbled on his first herbal sprigs and said "grunt-grunt" (which roughly translated, means "Wow! This tastes good - and look my rheumatism has cleared up!"), herbs have been used in a variety of ways for culinary, medical, cosmetic, decorative, aromatic and many other purposes. Some even became so precious that they were offered to the gods.

In the Western world, the use of herbs in medicine declined as modern (chemical based) medicines became popular, but is now being re-discovered by more and more people. However, the culinary use of herbs, particularly as teas, for seasonings in cooking, and as garnishes, has never really been "out of fashion". In fact, up until the early part of the twentieth century, their use was so expected, that they were seldom even mentioned in recipe titles! Nowadays, you can pick up any cookery book or magazine and be sure to find at least a few recipes which include herbs, in various categories including: beverages, breads, confectionery, desserts, dips, dressings, fillings, main dishes, marinades, preserves, salads, sauces, soups, spreads and stuffings.

You can buy herbs either fresh or dried - or better still, grow and harvest them yourself and then you'll have both! They also freeze well. As a general rule of thumb, you'll need three times as much fresh herbs as you would of dried herbs. Start with a little at first. You can always add more if you think the dish needs it, but you can't take any out again once you=ve added it. Make a note of how much you used and if it was too much, too little or just right.

Herbal Teas
If you want to do your diet, your health and your nerves a favour, learn how to make herbal teas (more properly called "infusions"). There are many pre-packaged ones on the market, which you make in exactly the same way as ordinary tea, but you can't beat growing your own herbs and (as you get to know more about the subject), creating your own blends. Use 1 teaspoon of dried herb or 1 tablespoon of fresh herb for each cup of boiling water. Pour the water on the herb, stir, and leave to stand for five to ten minutes, then strain and serve. You may sweeten it with honey or brown sugar if you wish. That=s all there is to it! Enjoy.


Herb Butters, Spreads and Dips
Another easy way to use herbs in the kitchen is to make flavoured butters (or margarines). Simply soften the butter, and add chopped herb (or herb mix) and blend well. Refrigerate to set. I make several different flavoured butters at a time (e.g. parsley, garlic, thyme, basil etc.) and store them in small pots or wrap blocks in wax paper; freeze them, and cut off a slice when I need it. Use your herb butter wherever you would use plain butter - try a dab on grilled fish or steak or on a baked potato.

You can make herbed cheeses in exactly the same way, except use softened cream cheese or yoghurt cheese instead of butter. Use it as a spread or anywhere else you would use plain cream cheese. Finally, mix chopped herbs with sour cream or yoghurt for great dips.

Tired of the same old assortment of salad greens? Our ancestors never had a problem - they used a vast assortment of different herbs in their salads. Try giving new life to your salads with some delicious choices. Toss in some raw young alexanders leaves and buds or finely chopped young leaves of basil, borage, caraway, chervil, chicory, chickweed, chives, comfrey, cowslip, fat hen, good king Henry, horseradish, houseleek, Jack-by-the-hedge, lemon balm, lovage, mustard, parsley, purslane, sage, sweet marjoram, tarragon, or wild celery.

Use the following herbs sparingly. Finely chopped alecost or arugula leaves add a tang, fresh anise leaves have a strong liquorice flavour Lady's-smock leaves taste like watercress, coriander leaves have a pungent scent, salad burnet has a nutty and slightly sharp cucumber flavour, and yarrow leaves are slightly bitter and peppery.

For a really spectacular salad, don't stop at the leaves - you can eat some of the flowers too! The small creamy yellow arugula flowers, for instance, can be tossed in salads or used as a garnish. Then there are bergamot flowers, beautiful starry blue borage flowers (without the green backing), chicory flowers, Clove pink or scented rose petals (without the he bitter white heel), nasturtium flowers and buds, pansies, primroses, marigolds (calendula) marsh mallows, and sweet violets. Petals or florets of common chives give a mild onion flavour and the starry white flowers of Chinese chives, a mild garlic flavour.

Herbal Salad Dressings
Homemade herbal salad dressings are easy to make, inexpensive, free of preservatives and taste great! They can be used on all kinds of salads - green, mixed, pasta, potato, or vegetable. I use an extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar, but you could vary this to your taste. Make as you would plain oil and vinegar dressing, adding the finely chopped or dried herbs last. For a creamy dressing, simply add the herbs to light mayonnaise or yoghurt. Thin with a little lemon juice if necessary. Leave it in the refrigerator for an hour or two, then stir or shake well before use. To flavour oil and vinegar dressings try summer savoury, salad burnet leaves, sweet cicely basil, dill or tarragon.
For mayonnaise based dressings try ground dill seeds, garlic, grated horseradish root, fresh lemon balm leaves, parsley, or tarragon. Ground, dill seeds can be used to flavour mustard, and mint is excellent in yoghurt dressing.

These are just a few ideas you can use to pep up your everyday meals, and provide low cost health care for your family. Some of these make good gift ideas too. Pack a basket with a teapot, two cups and a couple of dried herbal tea blends in fancy jars. Add instructions. Or pack a couple of tiny crock-pots with herbal butters and add some home-baked bread. I=m sure it won=t take you long to come up with some great ideas of your own.

By Sylvia Richards 15th August 2009

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NOTE: The writer is not a medical professional. The information in this article and on the Spiritual Haven web site is NOT medical advice. Consult a trained doctor or aromatherapist before attempting any treatment. We are not responsible for any misuse of information posted on this site.



© 2009 Sylvia Richards www.yourspiritualhaven.com All rights reserved