This is the time of year when herbs really come into their own and I consider myself fortunate to be able to harvest them straight from my garden. But it’s not necessary to have a backyard garden to benefit from the bounty. Right now you’ll find a great selection of the freshest herbs at the best prices at Farmers’ Markets, Roadside stands and even Supermarkets.
Herbs are the most useful plants. For the longest time we thought using herbs was to add a basil leaf to tomato soup or to sprinkle chives on a baked potato. We have now become much more aware and accepting of herbs contribution to healthy living. Many of the herbs we use everyday have multiple uses – culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal. In this post I’m sharing just a few of the many ways to use Basil, Chives, Dill and Parsley.
If you have no allergic reaction when using herbs in cooking or drinking, you should be fine using them for FIRST AID or cosmetic purposes. Unless you are trained to do so, NEVER use herbs to replace medical diagnosis or treatment.
FOUR EVERYDAY HERBS.
BASIL. This is one of the herbs that everyone knows and loves. It’s a pretty plant that grows equally well in the flower bed, the window box, the vegetable/herb garden or indoors during the winter. It’s also a must have plant for the pollinator garden. It is one of the most versatile plants with many uses – culinary, beverage, medicinal, cosmetic and even as insect repellant.
Culinary Uses: Try basil with beans; pasta; chicken; fish; meatloaf; Italian cooking of all kinds; anything with tomato; and of course, to make pesto or boursin. Try the Mozzarella Basil Bread, below, with a salad for a fantastic low-cost summer meal.
Mozzarella Basil Bread:
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 large loaf unsliced French bread
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 + 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 lb (225g) Mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. Mozzarella cheese, grated
Directions: Brush 1 tsp. olive oil over the dull side of aluminum foil – large enough to wrap around bread. Slice bread partway into 1/2 inch/1cm slices, making sure not to cut all the way through. Mix together the ¼ cup butter, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and 2 Tbsp. chopped basil – remove and set aside one Tbsp. of the butter mix and spread the rest between the slices. Place the cheese between the bread slices, spread the top of the bread with the reserved butter mix, then sprinkle with the grated mozzarella and the remaining 2 Tbsp. basil. Wrap in the foil and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.
More Uses: I wrote an earlier post about basil and rather than repeat the information, I’m simply adding the link: http://frugalforeveryone.ca/culinary-cosmetic-antiseptic-and-more-basil-does-it-all/
CHIVES. We grow garlic chives that have the pretty purple flower balls, like little lollipops, that the bees go crazy about. They are extremely easy to grow, indoors or out, and act as an aphid repellant (unfortunately not as eliminator) for our roses. Chives are used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Culinary Uses: Chives are great added to butters, cheese dishes, dips, eggs/omelets, potatoes, salads, sauces, seafood, soups and vegetables. We enjoy the mild taste so much that we have completely replaced green onions with chives.
Medicinal Uses: Chives are loaded with vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, Vitamin A and C and a host of other nutrients. Because of the high Vitamin C content, chives give chicken soup an extra boost when dealing with a cold. Added to a broth, soup or stew they are used to ease digestive problems; treat anemia; and as food for sick or convalescing patients.
DILL: There was a time when we made gallons of pickles and relishes and used lots of dill. We don’t bother with that anymore and also no longer bother growing dill. (The dill shown above is store bought.) But I still know enough about using it to share. Dill is used most often for culinary purposes but it has some excellent medicinal qualities. It contains many important nutrients, vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A and C plus iron and calcium.
Culinary Uses: Eggs, poultry, salads, potato salad, and as a sauce (recipe below) for fish, especially salmon.
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Directions: Blend all the ingredients together. Serve with fish, delightful over salmon.
Medicinal Uses: Dill is a centuries old herb which is most often used to:
- Prevent digestive problems, such as indigestion, excess gas and to relieve constipation;
- Help improve the immune system, reduce inflammation, and remove toxins from the body;
- The essential oils have a hypnotic, calming effect which helps insomniacs get a good night sleep – make a cup of tea by steeping 1 Tbsp. dill seeds in one cup boiling water for 10 minutes;
- The tea may also relieve stress related digestive problems;
- A milder version of the tea, using 1 tsp. dill seeds and 1 tsp. chamomile flowers to one cup boiling water may relieve an infant’s colic – be sure to strain the tea well and allow it to cool before giving it to the infant;
- Chewing some dill seeds will take care of bad breath.
PARSLEY. Parsley is often served as a sort of a ‘throw-away’ food at restaurants. Usually it’s a small sprig of green that people quickly slide off to the side, never thinking to eat it. That is a shame because parsley tastes refreshing, cleanses the palate and freshens the breath.
Culinary Uses: Add parsley to soup, stews, roast meat, poultry and vegetables. Use to make persillade or replace the basil in pesto with parsley. Makes a great herb butter (1/4 cup butter, 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley, 2 Tbsp chives, all mixed together). Parsley can be added to dough for homemade bread and crackers. It makes a nice tea and since it has lots of Vitamin C is a good drink for when you have a cold – one Tbsp. bruised parsley leaves to one cup boiling water, let steep for 10 minutes. Because of the many health benefits as listed below, parsley would be a great addition to a green smoothie.
- Parsley is a powerful anti-oxidant which may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, colon cancer, diabetes, and asthma.
- It has shown to be effective in controlling cholesterol levels and in maintaining good blood pressure and a healthy heart.
- It is a natural anti-septic agent for gums and teeth.
- It promotes the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, making it a necessary part of a healthy weight-loss program.
- Its high Vitamin K content promotes strong bones and a healthy brain.
This is not a complete list of parsley’s benefits by any means, but it should be enough to have you eat that sprig of parsley next time you’re dining out.
One warning: Excessive amounts of anything, whether it be drugs, food or herbs, are dangerous to health. Pregnant women, especially, need to be careful using parsley as it can bring on contractions.
Cosmetic Uses: The cosmetic use for parsley is limited, but here are two ways to use it:
- Make a strong parsley tea (1 Tbsp. chopped parsley to 1/2 cup boiling water, steep 10 minutes), add 4 cups water and use as a hair rinse to add body and shine.
- Mix 1 Tbsp. of the strong parsley tea with 1/4 cup coconut oil and use to moisturize dry skin.
I’ve only covered a very small portion of the huge amount of herbal information available. I will be sharing more ways to use other familiar herbs in the future. If you have any favourite ways of using herbs, or would like to know more about a specific herb, please let me know in the comments below.
Talk to you again next week,