Country cooks know the value of spices and herbs in baking, broiling, marinating and stews. Food just tastes better with the right seasoning and cooks are less likely to be bored when they have a variety of herbs and spices on hand.
The best herbs, of course, are fresh – grown just outside the kitchen door in your very own kitchen herb garden.
Flavoring foods with spices can actually be little more than salt, pepper and one herb – but this could make all the difference in the world in flavor.
Some people are surprised to learn that is pepper is thought of as an herb. Grown from a berry of the Piper Nigrum plant, black, pink, green, or white pepper are made from the same plant. The un-ripened berries are used for the black pepper while the red, ripe ones are used for the white pepper.
Some of the most popular natural cooking herbs for your kitchen garden are basil, sage, oregano, and parsley. Borage is one of my personal favorites as is cilantro.
Benefits of Fresh Herbs
One of the most beneficial attributes of herbs is that they have no calories, no fatty acids, no cholesterol, but also have many positive and powerful medicinal uses.
When using fresh herbs in cooking, it is important to remember a little often goes a long way. Too much of a fresh herb can distract you from the natural flavors of the food, even though herbs are meant to highlight, not overpower, natural flavors.
Stevia – Sweet Herb
This is an herb that has been getting a lot of attention in the last few years. Stevia adds the sweetness of sugar without a calorie. Although this herb has not yet been approved by North American governments to be sold as a sweetener for food or drink, it can be purchased as a food additive for personal use and replaces sugar easily in your home.
One Stevia leaf has enough sweetener in it to sweeten a glass of tart lemonade. Use fresh leaves from your herb garden or buy dried and ground product from the local health food store.
Many meat marinades at the grocery market get their flavoring from natural herbs – somewhat altered.
You can make your own marinade at home with fresh garden herbs or add your herbs to purchased marinades to add some extra punch to the flavor.
Try dill for fish, chicken or a vegetable marinade. Saffron in rice is always a good choice (although a little expensive). Putting rosemary on a pork roast or lamb chops serves great results. And little can replace basil for any sauce or salad.
With so many different, widely available herbs, you’ll never get bored creating one delicious dish after another.
Having spices in the cupboard is one treat for a cook, but having fresh herbs in the kitchen garden is easily ten times more joyful. Fresh herbs usually have 6 times more potency than dried. With the right blend of herbs you can make meat rubs, soup and stew bases.