Herbs within your reach

Natural HerbsPhoto: Culinary Herb Guide

One of the true benefits of spring is the abundance of fresh herbs. While many herbs such as Basil, Oregano, Parsley and Thyme are available at your favorite grocer or whole foods store, many herbs can be found growing wild, or even in your neighborhood. There is simply nothing more lovely as a food taste enhancer than freshly picked herbs. Basil gives a special taste addition to a variety of foods, ranging from spaghetti and other pasta, to salads, meat dishes, and soups. Along with basil, oregano is a “must have” herb for Italian cookery; and fresh oregano is much more taste enhancing than the dried variety.

Herbs such as Rosemary and Sage are actually perennial plants which can often be found in the wild as well as in private and municipal gardens. Both of these zesty herbs go well will numerous dishes, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicken and fish. Chives and Mustard (either domestic or wild) are also common in the spring and add zest and flavor to numerous dishes. Though not actually an herb, Garlic (a cousin to the onion) is a must for cooking and is also grown in organic gardens to help keep insect pests away. Garlic Chives are chive-like perennial plants that resemble chives but also have a special garlic-like flavor. They are often grown in organic gardens for reasons similar to garlic.

Herbs which have a special use include varieties of Mint, Fennel, and Dill. Mint is common in many gardens and besides its use in teas and other beverages has many uses as a flavor enhancer for meat dishes, especially lamb. Fennel is both an herb and a succulent vegetable whose flowering tops are used for flavor enhancers for food and sweets, especially licorice. Fennel’s bulb-like stalks resemble celery and can be cooked into many delicious vegetable and meat dishes. Dill is a common pickling herb as well as a taste enhancer in breads such as rye bread.

People who live near wooded or marshy areas can find many of these herbs growing wild during the spring and summer months. By picking them wild and consuming them immediately, you gain the benefit of using truly organic herbs. The alternative to picking them wild is growing them in you own organic garden, which can even be on your apartment balcony if you are a city dweller. Plant and garden nurseries provide special trough-like planters for growing herbs as well as special soil and other needed materials. You can also buy fresh organic herbs at whole food centers and other similar establishments, including public markets.

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