(Published in Inside Out, spring/summer 2012)
Add some punch to your cooking with fresh, home grown herbs. These fragrant plants add flavour to foods that could otherwise be bland and many have added nutritional benefits to boot too. Grow in pretty container pots on a patio, balcony or window ledge for a fresh supply whenever your culinary needs dictate.
This grass like herb has a very delicate and fresh onion like flavour and goes great in cream sauces and yoghurts. It can also be added to soups and stews, but be sure to add at the last minute as the flavour depletes quickly when cooked. Snip chives with scissors rather than a knife prior to cooking.
A member of the mint family, this herb is one of the most widely used. There are numerous varieties, but the most popular is sweet basil. Perhaps one of the most popular dishes is caprese salad, a refreshing Italian dish of fresh slices of mozzarella cheese, sweet tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt and pepper. Basil is a delicate herb and should not be cut until the very last minute, otherwise the leaves will turn brown.
This pungent herb is often used in Italian dishes, to add flavour to red sauces such as marinara as well as added to pizzas. It’s particularly great for marinades and salad dressings and for flavouring vegetables.
This is a versatile herb and its mild, yet slightly peppery flavour, can be used for a wide variety of dishes, from soups, stews, seafood dishes, meats, salads and sautéed vegetables. The two most common varieties are curly parsley and flat leafed Italian parsley. A great garnish for dishes too.
Rosemary is used widely in Mediterranean cooking and has a strong fragrance and flavour. Be careful, as its flavour can be overwhelming, so use with caution and be aware that a little can go a long way. A robust herb, it can stand a long cooking time and goes particularly well with roasted meats such as lamb and in hearty soups and stews.
Sage is an evergreen herb which has been around since Roman times. This potent herb has a slightly musky scent and comes in several varieties. Besides its well known use in stuffing for poultry, it also goes well with pork and veal. Sage also adds great character to vegetables and a pungent flavour to soups and stews.
This herb invokes a cool refreshing feeling and is widely used to flavour everything from toothpaste, to meats. In cooking, mint is often used as a sauce to accompany lamb, to flavour desserts, soups and in creamy sauces and yoghurt dishes. It is also used as a refreshing tea and in mojito cocktails. There are more than 600 different varieties of mint.