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pot-herbsPhoto by thomas pix

It seems that our small island culture most popular flavorings are sugar, salt, ketchup and mustard. The closest thing resembling culinary herbs on our plate is the sprig of parley,which at most times is perceived as a garnish!

Yet as gardeners and most of us know that there is are lots of flavors and nutrition that come with the use of culinary herbs. Adding herbs to your food give you the best of both worlds – concentrated nutrition with a whole world of health benefits as well as a variety flavors beyond salt and pepper. There is no question that herbs bring a depth of flavor and added nutrition to almost any meal.

Just as vegetable gardening, culinary herbs can also be very rewarding. In addition to the enjoyment of a wonderful variety of flavors, making use of homegrown herbs in the kitchen is a great way to enhance your wellbeing.

I’d personally love to see fresh garden-grown herbs become a larger part of every Dominican diet, let’s go back to the diets our grandparents and their parents grew up on. Where everything was grown and produced locally. Also I’d especially love to see kids more exposed to the variety of flavors and nutrients available in culinary herbs. I know there are lots Dominican parents who teach their kids the importance of eating health; but in a society where everybody wants everything quick-to-go we’re slowly losing our kids to the fast-food menus.

Remember, it’s the little things that we do each day that keep us healthy. Adding herbs to our food regularly is a better approach than just thinking of using strong herbs when we’re sick.

Here are some culinary herbs that can be grown in the ground, in pots, or even in small containers on the windowsill that get plenty of sunshine:

Note: Some herbs should be used with caution, especially if pregnant or nursing. Please check with your healthcare practitioner before using herbs for medicinal purposes.

Thyme

Health Benefits: Used as a cough remedy; considered antifungal and antibacterial. A primary constituent, thymol, is the main active antiseptic ingredient in Listerine mouthwash.
Culinary Uses: Savory, very versatile. Used in soups and stuffings, as well as marinades for meat, fish, and poultry.

Oregano

Health Benefits: Antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic; has antioxidant effects. Traditionally used for coughs, colds, and mild fevers.
Culinary Uses: The “pizza herb.” Used in tomato sauces, and to flavor fish and meat.

Sage

Health Benefits: Has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Used traditionally for minor digestive complaints, sore throat, and headaches.
Culinary Uses: Mixes well with cheese; traditional in Italian dishes. Commonly added to stuffing, sprinkled on turkey and pork. Tasty in bread, as well as bean or pea soups.

Rosemary

Health Benefits: Used traditionally as a memory aid and to help concentration. Also for joint pain, sore muscles, and minor digestive problems. Antioxidant, antifungal. Currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties.
Culinary Uses: Herb used with roast lamb, chicken, pork, vegetables, cheese, and soups.

Hyssop

Health Benefits: Extracts of the leaves are antiviral and antimicrobial. Traditionally used for coughs, colds, and bronchitis. Added to a balm for cold sores.
Culinary Uses: Has a slightly bitter, minty taste. Can be used sparingly for salads, mixed fruits, vegetable dishes, stews, and marinades.

Dill

Health Benefits: Can aid digestion by relieving intestinal gas. Helps relieve bad breath.
Culinary Uses: Used with pickles, seafood, salads, cottage cheese, breads, soups, and vegetable dishes (cucumbers, cauliflower, beets, etc.).

Cilantro

Health Benefits: Antimicrobial. Traditionally used to treat indigestion, loss of appetite, and joint pain.
Culinary Use: Used to flavor meats, fish, vegetables, and rice. Popular in Mexican, Asian, South American, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Parsley

Health Benefits: More than a decoration on your plate! Mild diuretic. Chew on parsley for fresh breath. Supports digestion; helps relieve bloating and gas.
Culinary Uses: Sprinkle on fish and chicken. Used in vegetable dishes, soups, stews, and tomato sauce.

Basil

Health Benefits:Basil has demonstrated anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Culinary Uses:It is very versatile in the kitchen, a wonderful addition to soups, sauces, fish, chicken, vegetables, and meats.

Source:huffingtonpost.com

Readers: Are there any culinary herb gardening tips you would like to share? Favourite recipes using herbs? Please share them in the comments below. Lets inspire and encourage each other to grow and enjoy healthy, delicious food with unique flavors that can only come from herbs.

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