Spring means all your favourite herbs are in season! While dried herbs have their place, adding fresh herbs to salads, sides, sauces and dishes can liven up flavour without adding many extra calories.
Herbs have unique health benefits and nutrients, but are also excellent additions to many dishes, adding flavour, texture and colour. Here’s a look at the most commonly found herbs in SA, what they’re good for and how to best use them!
- Basil – Think Italian food and the problem is already solved. Basil and tomatoes are excellent friends and basil goes well with most tomato-based dishes and Italian dishes, like pasta and pizza. It’s also excellent in salads, pesto and sauces.
Health benefits: Basil is a good source of Vitamin A, C and K, calcium, zinc and manganese. Consuming fresh basil may help to lower blood pressure levels and has been proven to ease stress levels.
Try this: quick vegan basil pesto recipe
- Parsley – There are two types commonly found in SA: curly parsley (that garnishes food) and flat-leaf parsley, also called Italian parsley. Flat-leaf parsley has a great texture and flavour and can be used to lighten dishes, like stews and add flavour to sauces or to liven up boiled potatoes.
Health benefits: It is a particularly rich source of vitamin K. A single tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley provides more than 70% of the recommended daily intake. Parsley also contains a good amount of vitamin A and antioxidants, which may help to prevent cancer and improve eyesight.
Try this: delicious herb sauce for chicken, steak and fish.
- Coriander – The mother of herbs: either loved or despised! Coriander leaves have a distinctive taste associated with Asian, Indian and Mexican dishes. Think of those delicious Thai curries and Asian slaw salads and don’t forget guacamole! The herb is great as a garnish, chopped and added to curries and stir-fries and blended with sauces and pesto.
Health benefits: Coriander may lower blood sugar by activating certain enzymes. Its antioxidants have been shown to fight inflammation in your body. Coriander extract appears to act as a diuretic, helping your body flush excess sodium and water. This may lower your blood pressure.
Try this: add some to your favourite buddha bowl!
- Mint – Mint is such a refreshing herb. It is excellent in salads and delicious when added to a glass of water or made into a tea. Mint and lemon pair well and are great for making homemade ice lollies or adding to homemade iced teas.
Health benefits: Several health benefits from mint come from applying it to the skin or inhaling its aroma. Although treatment for IBS often includes dietary changes and taking medications, research shows that taking peppermint oil as a herbal remedy might also be helpful. Mint may also be effective at relieving other digestive problems such as upset stomach and indigestion.
Try this: mint is an excellent accompaniment to berries and desserts. Try this yummy dessert recipe.