A friend recently asked me what my favourite herb was. I was hard-pressed to pick just one. If forced to, I would pick coriander (cilantro). As the old lady in the Frank’s Red Hot sauce ad says, “I put that sh_t on everything”. I really do use coriander a lot. We go through at least one large bunch a week. Having said that, there’s not a single herb that I can think of that I don’t like.
I thought I’d do a multi-part series on herbs and their many culinary and medicinal uses. I’ll start with pretty basic ones and move on, eventually, to more exotic or obscure ones.
- parsley is more than a just a garnish. It’s peppery bite enhances a lot of foods and sometimes, as in the case of tabbouleh, it is the main ingredient in the recipe.
- parsley is an excellent source of vitamin A, several B vitamins and vitamin K and it also contains more vitamin C than most citrus fruits.
- basil is the most commonly used herb in the US.
- green basil (there are other types) is mostly used in Italian dishes, such as pesto and Southeast Asian dishes, such as green chicken curry.
- one of the primary medicinal uses for basil is for its anti-inflammatory properties. This effect stems from eugenol, a volatile oil in basil that blocks enzymes in the body that cause swelling, which can be helpful for people with arthritis.
- mint can be used in savoury and sweet dishes, it can be used to flavour drinks such as mint juleps and it can be used as a garnish. It’s also used to flavour toothpaste and mouthwash.
- For centuries, mint has been used to aid digestion and relieve indigestion. If you suffer from frequent indigestion, drinking a cup of peppermint tea after your meal may help.
- Like other herbs, mint contains vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B2.
- dill is most popular in Germany, Poland and Scandinavian countries.
- there are volatile oils in dill. They have been studied for their ability to prevent bacterial overgrowth. In this respect, dill shares the stage with garlic, which has also been shown to have “bacteriostatic” or bacteria-regulating effects.
- the most common recipe using dill in North America is the dill pickle which is a ubiquitous garnish on deli platters.