Just seeing the phrase “herbs and spices” makes me automatically smell their fragrance in my head and salivate!
During a recent trip, I had the pleasure of enjoying a lot of natural herbs and spices in my food. In fact, I discovered a whole lot of new tastes. After we returned from our trip, I was thrilled to find we could get basil – we are only used to holy basil used in worship and as a remedy for colds and coughs.
Cooking with herbs and spices is a wonderful way to enhance flavors, besides helping cut down on salt, sugar and fat. And let’s not forget the wonderful health benefits.
Just to name a few:
- Gives heart health a boost
- Makes your skin glow
- Keeps your hair shining
- Helps with weight management
- Contributes to bone health by lowering your risk for osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and much more
- Enhances eye health
Now, imagine tastier food with all those health benefits!
Herbs and spices – truly a treat to the taste buds
The great thing about herbs and spices as flavor is – fresh or dried – just a little can transform a bland dish into an exotic one. I already use something called “garam masala”, a blend of different herbs and spices and “kasuri methi”, dried fenugreek leaves. Then there are the staples: ginger, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and turmeric and many more. The great news is – the spicy flavor of herbs and spices make you eat slower, naturally. Also, using spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom in baking help cut down sugar for sweetening.
Let me now share some of my favorites with you. All of these can be used ground or whole, fresh or dried.
At first, when I heard the name, I thought it must probably be a mix of different spices. Interestingly, though, it is a spice all by itself – a berry of the pimento tree – and is so called because of its mixed flavor that seems like a blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. This is used in sauces, seasoning and baked stuff. In Hindi, It is called kabab cheeni
This is an Italian cuisine favorite and tastes just great in salads. Add it fresh since cooking robs it of its flavor. You get sweet basil, Thai basil and lemon basil. I once had a lush little basil plant – sadly it died after a cycle.
This is a Mediterranean special available in leaf form and adds a wonderfully strong and pungent flavor. It is especially good for soups, stews and rice dishes. In the cooked dish, the leaf is discarded. We use it in biryani and pilaf.
A great seasoning for any dish, especially salads and soups. I have a cute little pepper mill for the freshly ground taste to add a special zing. It helps control blood pressure and makes the ideal salt substitute
Mmm…a must for most Indian sweet dishes, a great mouth freshener and flavor
We use it in seed form as well as fresh leaves. Rich in iron, adds a great flavor to most dishes. The seeds are used to make an extract that controls bile. I use the fresh leaves to make a special chutney.
Used as whole seeds in seasoning or in powder form, cumin adds a distinct flavor to dishes. Soak a few cumin seeds in a glass of water at night and drink it in the morning for a refreshed feeling.
Fresh or in powder form, garlic helps you minimize salt in your food. Fresh garlic has a stronger flavor. I can’t even begin to list the health benefits of this one!
Full of anti-inflammatory qualities, ginger also helps manage arthritis. Feeling nauseous? Ginger is an effective remedy. And of course, ginger tea is soothing for colds.
Fresh mint can be used in beverages, food dishes, desserts and salads – and mint chutney!. Add some crushed green mint leaves to plain iced tea or water for a refreshing drink with zero calories and zero sugar.
This is the fragrant bark of a tree and a baking spice, besides being heart healthy. Available as sticks or powder. I find the sticks are great for flavoring food while the powder is good for sprinkling on oatmeal and while baking. Read about the benefits of using cinnamon in your daily diet.
I realized the joy of oregano only when I was introduced to pizza just a few years ago. Very flavorful, it is a herb that belongs to the mint family. I love to use it to season my tomato sandwiches, salads, sweet corn, pasta, pizza and some veggie dishes. I haven’t seen the leaf, although you can get it in fresh as well as dried form.
The list of herbs and spices in my kitchen is seemingly endless and I am planning on writing an individual post on each, considering the long list of health benefits each one brings with it.
What herbs and spices are your favorites?
How do you use them?