Herbs are the key ingredient in many of our favorite dishes, and understanding how to work with them allows amazing meals to take form. Plus, in Eastern medicine, these aromatic plants have been known for centuries to have potent healing properties.
A lot of recipes coming to Among the Flora feature fresh herbs, so be prepared to see the babies listed below frequently.
Here are seven herbs to start incorporating into your meals today:
The tried & true OG. There are some people in this world who adamantly hate cilantro (a sin in my opinion). Personally, I could eat the leaves like candy. Cilantro is used heavily in all cultures. Middle Eastern: curries, Mexican: guacamole, Vietnamese: Pho. Some ideas for pairing: salads, rice dishes, salad dressing, with vegetables like cucumbers. It’s citrus and pepper flavor makes this herb so versatile. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it! It brings food to life.
Taste: citrus/lemon, peppery, refreshing
Storage: Place in a jar – with a little water at the bottom for the stems. Store in refrigerator.
Medicinal/Nutritional Properties: Antioxidant support. A small amount delivers a full daily value of vitamin A and K and is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and manganese.
Used heavily in Italian dishes, Thyme is truly one of my favorites. THE DRESSINGS. Thyme is wonderful for a lot more than dressings, but it is so delicious when thrown in a homemade lemon and olive oil blend. This herb is a common component to fragrant tomato sauces as well. No need to chop these woody herbs – just slide your fingers down to break the needles off & rub between your hands over the pot on the stove. Alternatively, leave the needles on the stem as is and throw it into soups, or mix in with roasted vegetables. Just be sure to remove when done cooking.
Taste: woody, bitter, slight mint & cloves flavor.
Storage: Either leave them out on the counter at room temperature to dry out on its own or keep them fresh by rolling in a cloth and putting in the fridge.
Medicinal/Nutritional Properties: Antifungal, antibacterial, and antifungal.
There are several different types of basil, each having their own flavor. Sweet basil is the one often seen in American grocery stores, whereas the spicier variety is found in Thai dishes. Sweet basil is common in Indian dishes, but it is recognized especially for its place in Italian cuisine. Pestos, pasta dishes, served with eggplant, and of course the classic: tomatoes and balsamic. Also pairs beautifully with oregano and garlic. The spiciness of Thai basil is great for pairing with heavy or rich flavors like coconut milk.
Since basil is a delicate herb, adding it only in the last few minutes of cooking is key. Exposing basil to hot temperatures for too long causes it to lose its flavor.
Taste: subtle pepper, sweet, cooling
Storage: In a jar with a little water for stems, place at room temperature out of direct sunlight. I repeat, do not store basil in the refrigerator.
Medicinal/Nutritional Properties: Anti-inflammatory & antibacterial. rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium
This is one of those potent herbs that does something no other herb could. It is the perfect fragrant and assertive addition to veggie roasts like carrots + potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, or topped on top homemade bread. The flavors of rosemary do intensify when exposed to heat though, so just use caution when seasoning since it can overpower a dish if it has a long cooking time.
Taste: highly aromatic, pine, pungent
Storage: (see thyme)
Medicinal/Nutritional Properties: Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties. Great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Manganese, Iron. Has been studied for its benefits in dementia patients.
Known for its cooling menthol effect, mint is a breath of fresh air in any dish. Add to some strawberries + blackberries, watermelon + pomegranate seeds, or raw vegetables. Throw it in a hearty salad to wake it up, in desserts to balance dense chocolate, or skip the plants altogether and go for a citrus pairing in a mojito. Note for preparing: mint leaves can break down easily and brown just from chopping. Skip the knife altogether with this herb and tear it with your fingers.
Taste: sweet, cooling
Storage: It’s often recommended to wet a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. However to keep it zero waste – I usually rinse the herbs and use the cloth I dried them with to place in a glass container. Wet the cloth again if it starts to dry out.
Medicinal/Nutritional Properties: One of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Can relieve allergy symptoms. Aids indigestion and upset stomachs with its cooling and calming properties.
Native to the Mediterranean, oregano is now mainly known for its presence in Italian dishes and the way it pairs perfectly with basil and tomato. Used as the base of many Italian traditional sauces and pizzas, it’s also found in many Cuban dishes. My grandmother’s black bean recipe for example, which calls for a healthy amount of oregano. Personally, this is one of my go-to herbs. If I don’t have a fresh bundle, I’m always using dried leaves to add a little depth to my dishes and dressings.
Taste: balance of sweet & savory, bitter, woody
Storage: (see thyme)
Medicinal/Nutritional Properties: Rich in antioxidants and helps to fight off bacteria and viruses. Anti-inflammatory & anticancer properties.
Sage is so lovely added to dishes in its fresh form, but there is something to be said about the way this herb transforms when crisped in a pan with olive oil. It is absolutely magical. It needed to be on this list for that reason alone. My favorite way to serve crispy sage is with butternut squash and buttery toasted sourdough. It also pairs wonderfully with apples, ginger, garlic or citrus just to name a few.