CHEF JEFF: Herbs are an everyday ingredientThis is to everyone who doesn’t cook with herbs: You don’t know what you’re missing. That might seem a bit harsh, but I don’t think so.
This is to everyone who doesn’t cook with herbs: You don’t know what you’re missing.
That might seem a bit harsh, but I don’t think so.
Some of you probably remember the TV jingle — made famous by Anita Bryant on behalf of the Florida Citrus Commission — that went like this: “A breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.”
Well, that’s kind of the way I feel about herbs. There’s hardly a day that goes by when I don’t use herbs in my cooking.
Just this past week or so, we had tomato salsa with fresh cilantro from the garden, smoked pheasant legs and thighs with an applewood rub from McCormick that contained the chili and cayenne red peppers and a vegetable soup that was seasoned with savory.
I’ve been preparing food with herbs for many years, initially, as a way to help me cut back on sodium. I found the right herbs can make food mighty tasty and can easily take the place of a pile of salt.
Jennifer Haugen, a clinical dietitian with Altru Health Systems, shares my sentiments.
“Herbs can add flavor without adding sodium and be the perfect addition to a heart-healthy diet,” Haugen said. “Healthy foods can taste good!”
She recommends using fresh or dried herbs to season foods instead of seasoning salts, bottled marinades or dressings.
Haugen added that it’s easy pairing herbs with certain foods.
“If you aren’t sure how to use herbs or spices, check the back of the label. The label will often provide information about which foods it would best compliment.”
Another one of Haugen’s recommendations is to plant your own herb garden, which can be cost-effective and a fun way to experiment with fresh products.
“It is a convenient way to have the freshest products available to you at all times.”
Herbs can be grown in a variety of ways: in a garden, in pot on a porch or even potted and grown indoors for use during winter.
Therese and I have an assortment of herbs in our garden, ranging from the aforementioned cilantro to basil to mint to thyme and rosemary. (This past winter, we also experimented with growing cilantro indoors with coriander seeds I saved last fall.)
The volunteer cilantro in our garden this spring is the best we’ve ever had (as is the volunteer lettuce). I attribute this to the fact that the cilantro matured earlier than it would if it had been planted by seed. It’s also made me think that it might be better to plant seeds in the fall. (Some people do this with spinach.)
Many culinary herbs (there also are medicinal and sacred ones) are perennials such as thyme or lavender, while others are biennials such as parsley or annuals like basil.
Some perennial herbs are shrubs (such as rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis), or trees (such as bay laurel, Laurus nobilis). And some culinary herbs are used as both herbs and spices, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds.
Also, there are some herbs like those in the mint family that are used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
The National Institute of Health and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that while herbs are sold in many forms — including tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants — it is very important to note that some can cause health problems, some are not effective and some may interact with other drugs you are taking.
It recommends that you always should consult with your doctor or primary medical provider before using an herbal product.
I’m just going to stick with cooking.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.