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Spice Up Your Cooking with Fresh Herbs

 

herb garden
Source: Kendra Zamojski

Whether you grow your own herbs or buy them in the grocery store, cooking with herbs has many health benefits. Using alternate seasonings in your favorite recipes is a great way to reduce sodium, sugar, and fat in your diet while adding bold flavors.  The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. According to the American Heart Association, having less sodium in your diet may help lower your blood pressure or may help you avoid developing high blood pressure.

COOKING WITH FRESH HERBS

What is the difference between an herb and a spice?  Herbs come from the leaves and stems of the plant. Spices are taken from the roots, seeds, bark, fruit, or flowers of the plant. Spices are bolder in flavor than herbs. Herbs and spices should enrich the flavor of food, without overpowering it. Here is a list of common herbs and the foods that they complement.

COMMON HERB AND FOOD COMBINATIONS
BASIL Tomato products, eggs, lamb, veal, rice, spaghetti, vinaigrette, soups , beans, eggplant
THYME Eggs, game meats, lamb, veal, rice, poultry, barbeque sauce, fish, chowders, soups, mushrooms, tomatoes
ROSEMARY Dumplings, eggs, game meats, lamb, veal, poultry, fish, barbeque sauce, chicken, beef, beans, mushrooms, potatoes, cauliflower, turnips
OREGANO Tomato dishes, beef, game meats, veal, spaghetti, clams, beans, eggplant, and mushrooms
DILL Tomato dishes, yeast breads, eggs, coleslaw, potato salad, fish, beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, summer squash
PARSLEY Salads, vegetables, pastas
SAGE Poultry, game meats, pork, rice, , soups , stuffing
CILANTRO Mexican and Asian cooking, rice, salsa, tomatoes

STORING FRESH HERBS

Fresh herbs need to be stored in the refrigerator, in an unsealed plastic bag, to maintain ideal freshness, and should be used within a week for the best flavor. If you are not able to use your fresh herbs in a timely manner, you should think about freezing them. Follow these easy steps for freezing fresh herbs from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (http://nchfp.uga.edu/)

  • Wash, drain, and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Wrap the herbs in freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag.
  • Seal and freeze.

You can freeze herbs in ice cube trays, just cover with water and freeze. The ice around them seals out air and helps preserve their flavor and aroma.

Adding herbs and spices to your favorite recipe is a healthy way to add zing to your cooking!

Author:  Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Science Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Gadsden County, FL

For more information about cooking with herbs and their health benefits, please visit UF/IFAS, Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1209, and Living Well in the Panhandle Newsletter: http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/2017/08/24/spice-things-up-with-alternative-seasonings/