I’ve tagged a resolution with the try-more-dishes one: Incorporate more fresh herbs, which provide a big punch of flavor to your food. I’ve long loved herbs, but haven’t always employed them as much as I should. More than just flavor enhancers, herbs were pre-pharmaceutical medicine: They provide some serious health benefits.
I always keep these seven herbs on hand. Try them yourself and see if they don’t give your dishes some serious flavor:
Sage. This vibrant grey-green herb provides a unique earthy flavor that’s simultaneously sweet and bitter. Sage pairs perfectly with pork, legumes, and poultry. Try cooking a boneless chicken breast in parchment paper with a few sage leaves, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Talk about warm, succulent flavor! Sage helps lower blood sugar, prevent excessive perspiration, and provides antimicrobial properties (inhibits disease-causing microorganisms).
Tarragon. A sweet herb with slightly peppery flavor and hints of licorice, antioxidant-rich tarragon helps reduce free radical damage. You often find it in French cuisine like omelets, fish and chicken. Tarragon doesn’t play well with other herbs, so avoid combining with other strong herbs like rosemary, basil, and oregano.
Thyme. This delicate herb has many different varieties, such as, lemon, orange, and the classic French thyme. Each adds its own distinct flavor. While it pairs well with any meat or fish, thyme seems destined for roasted chicken and tomatoes. Research suggests antioxidant-rich thyme helps improve brain function. Don’t know about you, but I could use that boost!
Basil. If you’ve dined at an Italian restaurant, you’ve probably tried basil. Think pesto, pasta, and caprese salad. Basil is actually native to Asia, India, and Africa, so try adding it to some of your other ethnic dishes like coconut curry. Basil works as a sedative and helps sooth digestive issues as well as headaches.
Rosemary. This hearty, pungent herb is fast friends with grilled meat and roasted fish, but also works well with lamb. Rosemary’s flavor becomes milder in winter, so you may need to add more to winter stews. Its powerful anti-inflammatory properties make rosemary a good choice for people with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Among its other benefits, rosemary aids in digestion, improves blood flow to the brain, and stimulates your immune system. Talk about a workhorse herb!
Dill. A relative of carrot and celery, this wispy herb traditionally helped treat gut issues. Dill aids in digestion, combats gas, and detoxifies the liver. I can’t imagine salmon or crab cakes without a good hit of dill: It brightens up seafood like no other herb. Try baking salmon in parchment paper with some dill, lemon, and capers. See what I mean?
Marjoram. An under-utilized herb related to oregano that provides a milder, sweet, spicy flavor. Use it wherever you’d use oregano for a new spin on old favorites like marinara sauce or grilled chicken and lemon. Besides being anti-microbial, both oregano and marjoram contain more antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables.
For flavor and health, I opt for fresh over dried herbs whenever I can. Remember dried herbs are more concentrated. If you’re subbing fresh, you’ll usually need to double or triple the amount. One teaspoon of dried rosemary would be two to three teaspoons of fresh rosemary.
One more tip: Tender herbs like, thyme, and dill should be added toward the end of cooking. Heartier herbs like rosemary can be added earlier in the cooking process.
About the Author
JJ Virgin is one of the nation’s foremost fitness and nutrition experts, an accomplished public speaker and media personality. Her 25 years in the health and fitness industry, the past 10 in holistic nutrition and functional medicine, have earned JJ recognition as the go-to weight loss expert who can unlock the door to lifelong weight management through her sensible, no-fail approach to nutrition and fitness.