Herbs add flavor and health to our meals. This is a list of the top sever herbs I couldn’t cook without. While it is true that these days you can find a wide variety of fresh herbs at your local grocery store, I found a lot of waste in buying them. Not only are they expensive but they come prepackaged. Unless you plan to use lemongrass in every meal for a week, you will end up throwing some away.
What are Herbs?
Herbs are plants but not all plants are herbs. Defining an herb is “a plant that can be useful”, whether as food itself, additional flavor to your food or even medicinal usefulness. Herbs are also aromatic in most cases, with special fragrances that have mentally uplifting and physical health properties. While most herbs are used for flavor, you can reap all kinds of benefits by using the right ones daily.
This adds a wonderful flavor to all kinds of meats (my favorite is lamb). I also use it on my roasted potatoes and season my vegetables too. Medicinally, it helps with circulation and the fragrance promotes concentration. When harvesting it is the leaves that you want from this plant. Rosemary likes lots of sunshine and sandy well draining soil. When the weather turns cooler, consider bringing this one indoors. The plant will grow bushy and can get up to 4 1/2 feet.
Saftey note: While this is fine to consume as flavoring during pregnancy, medicinal uses should be held.
This pairs well with most stronger meats and is excellent with apples. I like to use this in my Italian dishes and homemade dressings or bread. Medical uses include, help with colds, coughs, respiratory infections, and the flu. It can help with excessive sweating and can even ease some symptoms of menopause. Use this as a gargle for sore throats and swish for an antiseptic mouthwash. Growing this herb also require a good sunny spot and a light well-drained soil. Be sure not to over water. You can use the leaves all year round but they are at their most aromatic in August.
Saftey note: Do not ingest medicinally for more than 4 consecutive days.
A staple for almost any Italian dish, it adds wonderful flavor to pizza, tomato salads, and pesto. You can use this herb directly on bug bites to help with the itching and speed healing. When the oil is added with fresh lemon, it can aid in constipation and indigestion. Add honey to the mix for chest congestion and bronchitis. You can add fresh leaves to your bath water to ease tired and sore muscles after a workout. When growing basil you will need to nip the stems that flower to encourage leaf growth. This also enjoys full sun and needs to be protected from the cold. They do best in greenhouses or windowsills.
Saftey note: Avoid essential oil use during pregnancy, leaves can still be used for flavoring.
Chopping the fresh leaves of this herb (cilantro) adds a nice touch to curries, tacos, salads, and in dressings themselves. The seeds (the coriander) is used for pickling, chutneys, and to make curry powder. The seeds themselves are best for medicinal uses and can help with cramps from indigestion and aides in the digestion of high-fat foods. The oils are used for muscle pain and stress. A well-drained soil and full sun are key to growing this herb. While you can grow it in a pot (extra large) it does do best in the garden. Pinch out the flowering stems to promote leaf production and harvest seeds at summer’s end.
Saftey note: no issues
Garlic (yes this is an herb)
I use garlic in almost everything I cook. From comfort foods all the way over to Asian and Italian dishes. Two cloves of fresh garlic daily can be an effective antiviral, aiding with colds and flu. It has positive effects on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and has blood thinning properties (for this reason you should consult your doctor before starting a medicinal regimen). This needs to be planted in the fall in rich soil with full sun. Leave them to grow until the following summer and be sure to dry them before storage.
Saftey note: Consuming more than two cloves per day can cause loose bowels in some people.
This little herb is mostly seen as a garnish in restaurants but has so many uses. I use it to add to my meats, salads, soups, breads, cheese dishes, and even on my eggs. Parsley can help with digestion of rich foods (which is another reason you have seen it in restaurants). It can also be used for appetite stimulation and aides in nutrient assimilation. Requiring a rich soil that is moist but still well-drained, it likes part sun and part shade.
Saftey note: using the seeds medicinally is not recommended without speaking to your doctor and should be avoided during pregnancy and if you have kidney failure. Use for flavoring is safe.
Mint leaves can add flavor to all sorts of things. I use it mostly in my water infusions of lemon or raspberries. You can also add it to desserts or use as a garnish. Helping with stomachaches and slow digestion is just the start. Combining it with lemon helps with indigestion and the addition of chamomile helps with stress. Speaking of stress, the fragrance is used in spas around the world to boost relaxation and alleviate stress. This is a tough and invasive plant. Grow it away from others and the roots tend to creep. It is best to grow in a large pot even if putting in the ground. It likes damp heavy soil with good drainage and prefers the shade.
Saftey note: When using the essential oil, be mindful of allergy-prone or sensitive skin.
For more on the health benefits of gardening in general check here.