The Wonderful World of Herbs

The unique, wonderfully fragrant aroma of roast lamb sizzling in the oven with sprigs of rosemary, or freshly made pizza topped with the delightfully aromatic herb, oregano, are just some of those delicious memories that can be stored quietly at the back of our nasal sensory organs to be reminded about out when the mood takes us. Not only do herbs smell and taste great, some of them also have remarkable and effective healing properties.

Our ancestors would have used tea made from herbs to great effect. And to avoid rushing off to the drugstore for medication, we can do the same! Making tea from herbs is a simple procedure. Take a handful of fresh, organically grown herbs and let them steep in a cup of boiling water for five minutes. Strain and sip slowly. Lemon and honey can be added for taste. Most herbs have excellent medicinal qualities. Basil, for instance is thought to have an affinity with the heart, lowering high blood pressure, stress and tension. It also cleanses the blood and lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The beautiful, mineral rich herb Borage is a natural diuretic, an anti-rheumatic and an expectorant, rich in vitamin C and calcium. Mint, of which there are many species, is a superb digestive that relieves heartburn, cramps and nausea. A cup of mint tea after a heavy meal will help with digestion and leave you full of energy! Another familiar herb, parsley, is an excellent diuretic and is one of the best herbs for rheumatism, gout, arthritis and for flushing toxins from the body.

A guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use three times as much as you would use of a dried herb. Fresh herbs are usually more successful in a dish and should be purchased close to the time you plan to use them. When growing herbs in your own garden the ideal time to pick them is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot. This helps ensure the best flavor and storage quality.

Here are some perfect herb/food combinations to try:

Basil: Fresh leaves snipped over sliced tomato with fresh slices mozzarella - called a caprese salad -- is delicious. A pesto sauce made from blending a cup full of fresh basil, a tablespoon of pine nuts, half a cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of parmesan cheese can be used in a variety of dishes, including pasta, mixed vegetables and meats.

Chives: Freshly chopped, they make the perfect accompaniment to potatoes (particularly potato salad), cheese dips and tomatoes.

Freshly picked coriander or cilantro leaves are ideal when making ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice). It is also great with spicy dishes and salsas.

Dill can be chopped over carrots, cottage cheese, fish, green beans, potatoes or tomatoes for a lovely, flavorful dish

Mix a handful of chopped mint in with baby potatoes, cooked carrots and fruit salads. It makes a refreshing cocktail garnish as well.

Dried or fresh, oregano goes well with a variety of raw or cooked vegetable dishes, pizzas and pastas.

Dried or fresh parsley and either the curly or flat-leaf variety is perfect in stews and salads.

Chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoes benefit greatly from a few sprigs of rosemary.

Sage is wonderful for poultry seasoning and stuffings.

Tarragon is the best herbal accompaniment for chicken, eggs and fish.

Thyme: This strongly flavored little herb is perfect with boiled eggs, lima beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash and tomatoes.