Embracing summer’s many simple and sweet characteristics, means enjoying those block party barbeques, pool parties, gardening, farmer’s market outings and long afternoon sails. With the longer days and amazing sunsets, I know many of us wish it would never end.
As we share time in the presence of others, enjoying meals together, I’m sure there are some recipes out there that you love to make! But have we ever thought about the spices and ingredients we prepare the dishes with? A simple summertime pleasure we may overlook is cooking with fresh ingredients. Don’t you love the way fresh ingredients from the garden (or bought locally) add a crisp, yet refreshing flavor to your palate? When it comes to summer and cooking, using fresh herbs is a must! Herb plants are such a blessing and easy to grow and use.
While it’s fun to flavor dishes, it’s even more wonderful knowing they are helping our bodies to achieve overall health all the way from getting better sleep, to having a more efficient digestive system or even preventing the buildup of bacteria! Below are a few amazing herbs to incorporate into your cooking this summer.
Farm-fresh herb plants like Basil can be used in so many ways with such a wonderful, warm essence. Fun fact: there are over 30 types of basil! It can be used for sweet dishes or for mildly spiced recipes. If you love Italian foods, you’ll certainly know this pairs perfectly alongside mozzarella and tomatoes or atop a homemade classic cheese pizza. Not only does it make the taste buds happy, basil has an incredible aroma, as well. Further, this herb is the main ingredient in pesto which makes for a fun summer pasta sauce for all those cookouts. Yet, we can’t forget to mention basil as an ingredient in sweet dishes! Sweet? Oh yes! Have you ever tried homemade strawberry ice cream topped with a touch of chopped basil? Well, you’re going to have to try this next time you have the opportunity! Not only will your ice cream be delicious, it will be boosted with vitamins and manganese along with high levels of antioxidants. Just a few tablespoons can provide over 6% DV of manganese, 4% vitamin c and about 40% vitamin k.
Beyond flavoring dishes, its known to have powerful affects in combating inflammation and bacteria build-ups. Many use basil in the form of essential oils for topical use.
Some benefits found by eating this herb include lower blood sugar levels, reduction in anxiety, preventing UTIs (urinary tract infections) and supporting menstrual function. The antibacterial components of the herb keep the unhealthy bacteria at bay by alkalizing the internal environment of the body.
Flavorful herbs like cilantro is personally my favorite summertime herb! It has a cool, refreshing flavor, however it can have a slight after taste which can be a turn off for some. Use in an avocado, bean and tomato salsa. Add a touch of lime and serve with some tortilla chips for the perfect summer appetizer! Or use to garnish your yummy homemade guacamole!
To note, cilantro looks a lot like parsley so be certain to double check, if buying at the store.
Chives are related to the onion, shallot and garlic as they have some similar properties and flavorings, however, they are considered a subcategory of their own. Chives tend to be more mild than say an onion or garlic. While fun to flavor dishes with, they are a great addition for their vitamin k boost. Just a tablespoon can provide one with about vitamin D 8% and 3% vitamin C.
Medicinally speaking, chives aid in boosting bone strength, something we could all use a little more of as we age! They have cancer fighting super-powers, too- woohoo! Lastly, chives serve as a healthy source of choline. What’s choline? Many of us don’t receive enough of this nutrient which aids in building cell structures, regulating metabolism and brain function, while also boosting liver health.
Although chives are commonly looked past when it comes to fun summer herbs, some of the best dishes are best served with a touch of chives! I guess you’ll be giving this herb another chance, won’t you?
The Mediterranean- sourced herb is responsible for the flavoring of the dill pickles atop your grilled sandwiches. However, beyond pickles, it’s used in an array of dishes and common household cleaners. You can find this herb in lotions, perfumes, soaps, snacks, dressings, baked goods, etc. Greeks even used this herb to make wine!
As a relative to the parsley, cumin and the bay leaf family, dill is one of the better herbs when it comes to reliving menstrual cramps as it reduces discomfort and pain. Interestingly, it also helps to lower cholesterol and has antimicrobial effects. Bye-bye icky bacteria!
So cool, light and fragrant, mint has many soothing benefits medicinally and provides a wonderful flavor to many foods. It’s considered one of the top healing herbs known to aid in digestion, boost brain function, relieve colds, and reduce the occurrence of indigestion. The best way to use this herb, medicinally, is by rubbing the oil on your stomach area or putting a few drops in your water.
When it comes to using this in recipes, how about some lemonade, iced mint tea for a refreshing summer beverage to sip poolside? Boil water and make a fresh jar of brewed, unsweetened black tea. As it cools and after the tea bags are removed, add some whole peppermint leaves from the garden. Let the tea cool for a bit longer and remove all leaves. To finish, make a batch of fresh-squeezed lemonade. Combine the tea and lemonade and wow- an easy, fun, summer drink for you to enjoy and share, too!
If you want to use this herb around the house in cleaning products for a fresh scent, go for it! It leaves a wonderful aroma making your home feel so refreshing and clean!
The native Siberian herb has some remarkable uses when it comes to cooking. It’s best used in sauces to flavor dishes with meats, fish and chicken. The flavor is very distinct and can easily be picked out. Yet, beyond the kitchen, it lends itself to some abundant medicinal uses. Do you have digestive issues? Or a heart condition? Maybe you have trouble sleeping? This is one of the best herbs to look for. Try a cup of warm tarragon tea before bed or rub some essential oil on your wrists or stomach.
Many of these herbs are year round staples, but are especially plentiful this time of year. They lend themselves to endless ways to be used in the kitchen for fun recipe creations. Just by adding to your summer dishes, you will be easily and conveniently reaping the rewards internally for your body. To make it a little more fun, planting a garden of your own allows you to care for these little plants and provide them with the love they need. Maybe you already harvest them from your own garden or pick up weekly at the market. If not, have you ever considered creating an herb garden that can be kept outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter to keep the herbs growing all year? Personally, I love having fresh ingredients in the winter to flavor my dishes. I don’t know about you, but for me there’s something so organic and wholesome about harvesting my own herbs that I grew from my own two hands. The best part is you don’t have to have a bunch of land to plant a garden. All you need is a few pots around the house of just a few herbs. Maybe you only want to grow one- that’s awesome!
Lastly, another idea includes drying the herbs from your summer garden if you don’t want to keep the garden going all winter. This allows the herbs to be available in dried form. To note, using fresh over dried does provide a different flavor and when using dried, the measurements for each recipe will have to be modified to flavor in the same ways as you would with fresh ones.
What recipes will you be creating? How are you going to flavour salads with your herbs? What are some of your favorite uses for these herbs? Maybe you have a favorite not listed here. Let us know, on social media!
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