Herbs and Spice
Basil is full of anti-oxidants and has some anti-microbial effects. It is rich in minerals, vitamin A and iron. (It also contains potassium – check out my blog for tomorrow featuring my favorite antipasto drizzled with pesto and a simple caprese salad). Basil makes a great companion to tomatoes – you’ll get a better harvest!
Cilantro’s stems are so tender they can be used as well as the leaves. (There’s a compound in cilantro that actually gives it a soapy taste when you use too much). I love it in Mexican dishes. It has a compound that appears to kill salmonella bacteria and it has anti-oxidant and anti-anxiety effects. (It also cools a hot tummy and is why it’s included in recipes that have lots of spicy heat).
Cinnamon is a spice that helps the body process sugar and cholesterol. It is very aromatic and does not only have to be paired with sugar. (One of our favorite Lebanese dishes is Green Beans with Lamb and Cinnamon). Cinnamon and apples, cinnamon and pumpkin, cinnamon on your oatmeal, are just a few of my favorites and seem to help reduce the amount of sugar needed to sweeten these classic dishes.
Curcumin is the antioxidant in turmeric, which gives it the yellow color. This spice is linked to a reduced a risk of diabetes and reduced risk of some cancers and is a staple in yummy Indian curry dishes. (And it turns my naturally dyed Easter eggs a brillliant yellow!).
Garlic is the spice of life even though it is neither an herb or a spice! It is a vegetable from the lily plant, but when dried garlic is referred to by some as a spice. Garlic lowers blood pressure and has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is rich in vitamin C. It is a relative to the onion, shallot, leek and chive. Garlic is spicy and pungent and it sweetens with cooking. (Try freezing whole heats of garlic, unpeeled. When thawed, the cloves are very creamy in texture).
Ginger cleanses the palate, is a good anti-nausea spice and may reduce blood pressure, too. In my opinion, ginger goes well with wasabi, also called “Japanese Horseradish,” which has antimicrobial effects, perhaps that is why it is often paired with sushi. Just saying the word “wasabi” opens up my sinuses and wakes me up. (And check out my blog for healing ginger tea).
Oregano is a versatile herb that has anti-septic and expectorant effects and is rich in anti-oxidant cancer fighting properties. Besides, it’s the “pizza herb.” (It’s also one of the most healing herbs and can help with joint pain). Crushed Red Pepper It contains capsaicin, which reduces pain and inflammation and helps improve blood flow. After salt (a mineral) and black pepper (a spice which blocks fat absorption), my next most common shaker is full of this crushed red pepper and goes well with steamed spinach and fish dishes. (This spice is fat soluble so when cooking with it, add a little oil or healthy fat to get all the good stuff).
Paprika is made from chili and bell peppers. It is red in color and is used to add color and flavor to soups, stews, and is rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants. Like most herbs and spices, paprika is essentially calorie free! I add paprika as a garnish to my deviled eggs. However, cooking the spice in oil brings out the flavor. What is the perfect Hungarian comfort food, Hungarian chicken paprikash, without paprika? (Store in freezer).
Parsley is not just a garnish, it is rich in vitamin K, which is needed for good bone health and contains chlorophyll which not only handily freshens your breath but is also rumored to be an ancient aphrodisiac. What are parsley potatoes without parsley? (Parsley is like a vitamin pill in a plant. It contains calcium and iron. Plus it’s a gentle kidney cleanser).