It’s a very common complaint that healthy food is boring and tasteless. Indeed, it is – if you don’t know how to use herbs and spices. Herbs and spices not only add flavor and diversity to your meals but, also stimulate digestion, enhance your mood and heat up your sex drive. (No jokes! Spanish machos and Bollywood ‘casanovas’ stuffed with saffron won’t lie nor will Italian men loaded with basil).
Well, I’m not here to improve your sex life, but to show you which herbs are must-haves in your garden or on your windowsill that also will save the bee population. (A great sex life will come along, too, though 😉
If you grow these herbs on your windowsill, please don’t forget to open your windows from time to time so that the bees can feed on them.
One can get lost in too many varieties of thyme. While varieties abound in the nurseries and gardener centers, my favorite varieties are orange-scented thyme and garden thyme.
Thyme can be used in salads and main dishes as well as in the desserts and sauces.
If you’re not up to serious culinary experiments try adding it in tomato salad with a bit of good cold-pressed olive oil and garlic. You can never go wrong with this combo.
Marjoram is a great addition to your soups and stews. My favorite recipe with marjoram is a mixed dried and fresh mushrooms soup. It adds a sweet and slightly bitter undertone.
Although you can’t really overdo it with marjoram, there are some very fragrant varieties, such as sweet marjoram, which are better to stay away from for those who don’t like strong Mediterranean flavors. Pot marjoram has a milder flavor and will be your best friend in your kitchen.
When it comes to salads, desserts and teas, mint is a real queen! Whether it’s a Moroccan tea with a stick of cinnamon or mint meringues, mint is the best herb to add a fresh, cooling flavor.
But don’t think that you can’t use mint in main dishes or salads. The good old spinach or pea soup can find a new completely different taste if you add in a little mint.
How about putting some mint in the quinoa salad with broad beans and garden peas or in a beetroot and feta salad. I promise you won’t regret it.
I also love to make watermelon, lime and mint sorbet in the summer.
Mint is known to promote digestion and can really help you when you overindulge at that Christmas dinner. Mint works by activating salivary glands. Saliva contains amylase, which breaks starchy carbohydrates into glucose and maltose so that it’s easier for your digestive tract to absorb it.
That’s why there is a tradition of drinking mint tea as both appetitive and digestive remedy in Arabic countries. Arabic cuisine is full of carbohydrates, starches and meat, so some digestive aid is needed to enhance saliva production.
Listing all the possible varieties of mint is useless. There are just too many!
Some must-haves in my garden are peppermint and spearmint.
Sage pairs perfectly with thyme or can be used on its own as a single herb in your dish. Sage is mostly used in savory dishes. It brings a bit of an astringent and warm flavor to main dishes and snacks.
I love to sprinkle sage on my tomato chips that I make in the dehydrator or to mix it with thyme, ground black pepper, garlic, salt and olive oil in my salad dressing. Another good idea is to put it in omelets and frittatas, which will add a bit more unusual taste to them.
Sage has way too many health-promoting properties. Most important property is that sage has rosmarinic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Sage is also an amazing memory enhancer. Load yourself with sage when you’re cramming before an exam. Hopefully your examiner will remember your brilliant answer and not be distracted by the savory herb smell 🙂
Whatever you cook, add sage at the very end of your cooking. Its taste is very delicate, so long processing times can destroy it.
Who ordered pizza? Yes, oregano is THE herb that gives your favorite slice of pizza that pungent flavor. Oregano tastes great with sautéed vegetables, pastas, salads and tomato bruschetta. I mean, you can’t go wrong with oregano. It brings such a fresh and Mediterranean flavor that it feels like you’re having your lunch somewhere in Sardinia.
The carvacol and thymol that are found in oregano are very strong antifungal and antibacterial agents (not that you have any issues with either!) However, it’s widely used in the production of organic soap and cold medicine.
There are few dozens of varieties of oregano available. Although Italian and Greek oregano are the most popular, you can try Turkestan oregano or Mexican oregano varieties. If you do, let me know how it tastes.
Be creative with your herbs. Finding new tastes in the old, pestered dishes can be really exciting. If you don’t have a garden and plan to do grow herbs on your windowsill, though, please don’t forget to open your windows sometimes so that the bees can enjoy your herbs, too.
We are saving the bees here, remember? And if you forget to do so, just have some more sage so that maybe you’ll remember next time! 🙂
However you grow herbs, enjoy your little precious garden!