Using herbs is a really healthy way of adding flavour to food. Herbs are added to oils, sauces, vinegars, taken as remedies, drunk as teas and even used to flavour toothpaste! You can throw in a handful of fresh herbs to a salad rather than use dressing for flavour.
Many herbs contain flavonoids that can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and are also rich in a wide range of disease-fighting phytochemicals. They can also have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and boost the immune system.
Fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary, parsley, and basil are among the most nutritious. Raw parsley gives you vitamin A, calcium, iron, vitamin K and vitamin C, admittedly for the quantities used the amounts aren’t enormous but you get a picture of their goodness! That’s not to say you should eat them by the bucket load, excessive use of some herbs can be harmful to health.
Herbs can be grown very easily, even in a pot on the windowsill, so you can pick them whenever you need to use them. Freshly-picked herbs have extra flavour and retain more of the nutrients that are good for you.
Choosing between fresh or dried herbs is a matter of preference. Fresh robust herbs like rosemary and thyme can be used in longer slow cooked dishes. The more delicate herbs, like basil, chives, coriander, dill and parsley, can be added just before the end of cooking to preserve their flavour.
Dried herbs need longer cooking time for the flavours to infuse. Some herbs have more flavour than others when dried. Basil, chives, parsley, and coriander, for example, lose some flavour when dried, while rosemary, sage, and oregano become more concentrated. Use a quarter/third less dried herbs compared to fresh, to produce the same flavour and gradually add more to taste.
Herbs are so flavoursome and are reputed to have healing qualities, we think of them as ‘natural’ and safe and that is true, as long as you use them wisely!