Food for Thought
Herbs and Spices part One
It is the time of the year that everything starts to grow again in the garden and I wanted to share with you some thoughts in regards of fresh herbs and spices. Many of these herbs can easily be seeded and grown in the home garden, the window sill or the balcony of a flat. You just need some flower pots, the right seeds or young plants, good turf and some patience and…LOVE! Spices came to us from the Middle and Far East; many of them have become so common that most of us do not even know anymore where they come from and when they were introduced in Europe. That might be an idea to write about next time. In any case, we use lots of fresh herbs in the Restaurant. There is for example nothing better then, on a hot summer day, to eat a fresh red Italian tomato with some basil leaves, some drops of extra virgin olive oil, little salt and pepper and a good glass of ice cold white wine and a piece of brown bread. Most of you will prefer the version where the mozzarella enters the picture, though. We use at the Restaurant only imported Italian Buffalo Mozzarella of the finest quality!
Herbs and spices, then, are often the richest sources of aromatic compounds and essential oils, bioflavonoid and minerals.
Here is a list of herbs which are very common and readily available in the better supermarkets and what they are good for; apart from adding flavour, scent and colour to the dishes you prepare at home. (Courtesy of Raymond Blanc from the Book; Blanc Vite)
This column we will dedicate to the leafy herbs and next issue we will have a closer look at the spices.
Basil is reputedly helpful for migraine, nervous tension, constipation and insomnia. It is a natural disinfectant.
Bay leaves help stimulate appetite and aid digestion.
Chervil is rich in Vitamin C, iron, magnesium and beta-carotene. It acts as a diuretic and benefits the liver; it’s good for treating gout, rheumatism and eye troubles.
Chives, being a member of the Allium family, share many of the Allium properties, and also stimulate appetite and aid digestion.
Coriander, herb and seeds, combines sedative and stimulant effects; the seeds if chewed are an aid to digestion.
Dill, herb and seeds, can be stimulant and sedative, and is digestive, often used in the treatment of infant colic.
Lavender is diuretic, calming for nervous diseases of the stomach, and stress.
Lemon balm is said to cure many nervous afficions.
Lemon grass has been used as an antiseptic, a sedative (reducing anxiety and promoting sleep) and digestive.
Lovage seeds, leaves and roots may be beneficial for rheumatism, and the leaves are good for treating urinary problems and jaundice.
Marjoram is an excellent digestive, and mint is antispasmodic and carminative.
Oregano is sedative and calming, and a good diuretic.
Parsley is rich in vitamins A, B and C and many of the other nutrients of green leaves, notably iron and calcium. It is a natural antiseptic and diuretic.
Rocket, used as both salad leaf and herb, is a recognized antiscorbutic because of its Vitamin C content. For medicinal purpose, the plant is most effective when gathered while still in flower. Rosemary is a very rich source of many bioflavonoid, and has many medicinal qualities; it is diuretic and stimulant, and can assist with stress.
Sage is a natural antiseptic, tonic and stimulant. It is also antispasmodic and an antidote to fatigue and aids in the digestion of rich and fatty foods.
Sorrel is rich in potassium and Vitamins A, B and C. It has high oxalic acid content, so should be avoided by people suffering from gout, rheumatism or arthritis. The leaves may be used as a diuretic, tonic or mild laxative.
Savory aids digestion and is diuretic.
Tarragon acts as a stimulant and calmant at the same time, aiding digestion.
Thyme is a natural antiseptic because of its high thyme-oil (essential oil) content; it is also diuretic and digestive.
Watercress is rich in iron, Vitamin C and other minerals. It is effective in combating bronchial problems, protective against lung cancer, and stimulates the circulation.
When shopping for salad leaves, what I do is I always add some herbs that I pluck into the salad. At the Restaurant we use a mixture of 4 or 5 different salad leaves and we add a mixture of again some 5 to 6 different herbs. Taste wise it is so much more then just a salad and it boosts the healthy properties of the meal! Try to eat with every meal some raw vegetables or salad; it helps greatly the digestion!
Enjoy planting, harvesting and eating herbs, spring is there!!