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Healing herbs: Health benefits and uses

Fresh parsley, basil and chives in pots

Fresh herbs can turn a dish from drab to fab and (depending on how much you use in your cooking) provide important nutrients.  So, what’s not to love!  Here are 5 common herbs and their culinary uses. 

If you’re looking for new ways to flavour meals without added salt, fat and calories, then fresh herbs are for you. They have heaps of fantastic flavours — and are so nutritious. The trick is how to grow and use them, and how to keep them fresh.

Grow your own fresh herbs

Have you ever thought about growing herbs? All you need are some small pots and a sunny spot. They’re low maintenance, but don’t forget to water them! You’ll always have them to hand, and they’ll add a lovely splash of colour to your kitchen.

Grow, don’t throw

Too often we end up throwing almost full bunches of wilted herbs in the bin. Most bunches of herbs like to be treated like flowers when cut. They last longer in a jar of water, and longer when potted. Pick what you need from the pot, and wash them!

1 Basil

This delightfully fragrant herb helps lower blood pressure and contains folate, vitamin C and bone-boosting calcium.

Eat it with… Tomatoes, cheese, olive oil and garlic. Add basil to pasta, omelettes, sandwiches, green and potato salads, and sprinkle on tomato-based casseroles and pizza.

HFG tip… Be aware that basil can ‘bruise’ easily. Its a good idea to carefully wrap it in a lightly-dampened paper towel and store in the fridge for 1–3 days.

2 Coriander

Coriander contains a powerful mix of nutrients that benefit eye health. Popular in Mexican cuisine, coriander also pairs well with Asian flavours like lime and lemongrass, as well as green curry. Great in marinades and dressings.

Eat it with… Soups, salads, eggs, salsas, tacos, stir-fries, curries, and noodles.

HFG tip… Best added at the end of the cooking process.

3 Mint

An excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C, iron and calcium. Mint is renowned for its gut-soothing properties and may help Irritable Bowel Syndrome and indigestion.

The herb is used liberally throughout Middle Eastern cuisines.

Eat it with… Lamb, tomato soup and Vietnamese pho, right through to summer salads, fresh fruit salads, and in chilled water for a tasty refreshment.

HFG tip… Not a fan of coriander? Try using mint instead.

4 Parsley

Packed with the antioxidant-rich vitamins, folate and iron, parsley is also an excellent source of vitamin K, important for bone health and blood clotting. It’s used as the base for the classic Middle Eastern dish tabbouleh, and for sauces such as salsa verde, chimichurri, and parsley and walnut pesto.

Eat it with… Parsley is an all-rounder that can be added liberally to any savoury dish.

HFG tip… Flat or curly? We prefer the stronger flavour of flat-leafed parsley.

5 Chives

Chives are part of the onion family, and well regarded for their disease-fighting nutrients and for important immunity and circulatory support properties.

Eat them with… It’s delicious when finely chopped and added to boiled potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle chives on eggs, fresh tomato, salads, soups or casseroles.

HFG tip… Use chives in place of onion or shallots to add a milder, more delicate flavour

First published: Sep 2020

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