Summer is rapidly approaching! One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh herbs readily available in stores, farmers markets, and especially in my own garden.
When considering a healthy diet, herbs are often overlooked and forgotten. But we would do well to include these mighty green plants in our diets. Why? Because they are packed with nutrition for our bodies and contain health-promoting properties.
Parsley? Among the many vitamins and minerals it contains are vitamins K, C, A, folate, copper and potassium. It is a rich source of antioxidants and its volatile oils neutralize carcinogens.* Basil? It contains vitamins A, B6, E, K, choline, calcium and magnesium, to name just a few. According to recent research, the components in basil may help heal arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.** Rosemary is especially rich in B vitamins and vitamin A. It has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties.***
I could go on and on with more data, but my point here is simple: Herbs are nutritious, and it seems prudent to include herbs in our diet on a regular basis. Furthermore, fresh herbs are just plain delicious and impart vibrant flavor to food. Fresh herbs will take a mediocre dish to the next level.
So, how about some tasty inspiration to include more of these nutrient-packed greens into your diet?
We all know basil makes pesto, but did you know you can use other herbs like cilantro to make an alternative-flavored pesto? (In fact you can even use other greens like arugula or radish greens as well as nuts like walnuts or hazelnuts in place of pine nuts.) One of my favorites to use with shrimp or white fish is a pesto made from a blend of one part cilantro to two parts basil. It's amazing!
A whole host of herbs can be minced and added to a simple homemade salad dressing, or even to the salad itself. Some of my favorite herbs to add to dressings and salads are chives, basil, thyme, purslane, parsley, oregano and cilantro. You can highlight one herb in a salad, or you can mix a few together whose flavors blend nicely.
I don't often make soups during the spring and summer months, but these two vegetable-based soups are exceptions. This creamy, dairy-free roasted tomato and eggplant soup utilizes garden-fresh tomatoes and eggplant, as well as fresh oregano and basil. A chiffonade of cilantro or Thai basil is the perfect toppings for my favorite, super-easy, 10-minute prep Coconut-Ginger Sweet Potato Soup.
Fresh sage, thyme, lavender and rosemary are all wonderful herbs to use for this easy, herb-roasted chicken, a favorite family recipe for spring and summer.
Chives can be minced and mashed into fresh, creamy butter for a savory spread.
Try these elegant balsamic-glazed carrots and top them at the end with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.
Fresh basil is tossed with minced sweet peppers, tomatoes, garlic and more and then scooped into these warm and toasty stuffed portobellos.
I hope you take this fresh inspiration with you into the kitchen and incorporate fresh herbs into your meals this week! Fortunately, nowadays you can walk into most grocery stores and find several of the more common fresh herbs—basil, rosemary, chives, sage, cilantro, thyme, parsley. Or, if you're up for the challenge, try growing herbs in a garden, in pots on your patio or deck, or even by a sunny window in your house. Herbs are actually some of the easiest plants to grow and are good for newbies to gardening.
Do you grow your own herbs or do you prefer to buy them at the store? Which herbs are your favorites to use in the kitchen?
- * Parsley resource
- ** Basil resource
- *** Rosemary resource
Christy Greer is a wife, mom, blogger, cookbook author, artist, and amateur gardener. She blogs at Whole Foods On A Budget, where she shares the beauty of real food, her favorite whole foods recipes, tips on buying wholesome food on a small budget, information on small-space gardens and grace-filled encouragement to make small, steady steps toward healthier eating. You can connect with Christy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. She would love to hear from you!