Fresh herbs—green, flavorful, and full of intoxicating aromas—add life to any dish. However, their value extends far beyond delighting the senses; herbs contain health-promoting properties that have been studied for thousands of years. Incorporate these simple, tasty ideas to elevate your cooking routine and reap the health benefits.
Many fresh herbs can be grown on your kitchen window sill to access easily. Others grow best in your garden. Your local farmers market is an ideal place to source fresh herbs, as they are often picked just hours before. You will also find an array of herbs in the produce section at your local health food store.
Flavor & Satisfaction, Without Fat & Sodium
You don’t need heavy sauces and oils to add flavor and satisfaction to your meals. Freshly chopped mint or cilantro with a squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavors of your favorite foods may be all you need. Additionally, fresh herbs have very minimal levels of sodium, making them a flavorful substitute for salt.
20 Ways to Add Herbs to Your Cooking
- When cooking rice, throw in a few sprigs of mint or cilantro just before the rice is done. At the same time, squeeze the juice from half a lemon, too—it lends tang and fluffs out the grains
- Melt some ghee in a pan. Throw in a teaspoon of ajwain (carum copticum) seeds. Wait for the aroma to rise, then add in some mashed potatoes and fry on high heat for three minutes. Make the dish more interesting with freshly chopped fenugreek leaves and lemon juice to balance out the slightly bitter flavor.
- Say "no" to carrots in plastic bags. Buy your carrots fresh and tops-on. Braise them in water and a little ghee. Add freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle on three fresh herbs of your choice when the carrots are done.
- Plain white, steamed rice is great on its own, but one bay leaf helps release the aroma. Intensify the impact with two cloves. A pinch of turmeric will make it look rich and exotic.
- Cook lentils and chopped vegetables with your favorite herbs—cilantro, thyme, dill, tarragon, or parsley—to add flavor. It makes a hearty one-dish meal with a bread of your choice.
- Sauté crushed red chilies and minced ginger in olive oil. Add to a soup pot for instant pizzaz. Ayurveda recommends chilies and ginger for balancing Kapha.
- Roast a tablespoon each of whole coriander and cumin, and pound together. Mix this spice with boiled and cooled garbanzo beans, and moisten with lemon juice. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. No salt required for this healthy snack.
- Start your morning with warm ginger-lemon water, sweetened with honey (make sure you don't heat the honey). Lie down for five minutes after you drink it. This helps the kidneys flush better.
- Parboil potatoes and scoop out the centers. Fill the hollows with a paste of ground mint, rock salt, and olive oil. Bake on high for fifteen minutes and you have hot, mint-flavored potatoes, bursting with flavor.
- Try this sense-gratifying marinade for your veggies: Blend ginger with yogurt, mustard, and chopped green chilies. Dunk the vegetables in this for an hour or so, then grill.
- Bake acorn or butternut squash with a cracked cinnamon stick. Season with black pepper, a little lemon juice, salt, and chopped cilantro when done.
- Dish up some colorful, subtly flavored rice tonight. Bring home the Indian basmati variety. Stir three strands of saffron into a tablespoon of warm, melted ghee, and add to the water in which you cook the rice. Add one cracked green cardamom pod as well, which you can discard when serving.
- Sauté diced tofu with just-cooked red kidney beans in a little olive oil. Add flavorful paprika, turmeric, and julienned ginger. Toss in a tablespoon or two of fresh yogurt. Season and sauté on high heat for a few minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
- Dry-roast cumin seeds till they release their unique aroma—be careful not to burn them. Then rough-crush in a chopper with a few cilantro leaves, a little lemon juice, some olive oil, and roasted nuts for a quick dressing for seasoned diced cucumber or boiled and diced potatoes.
- Pick up the freshest green beans you can find. Chop and steam them for five to ten minutes, then mix with cooked, yellow split lentils. Season. Add a tablespoon of finely-chopped mint leaves. Melt ghee in a pan. Add some crushed ginger and a teaspoon of Organic Vata Churna. Pour over the beans and lentils. Mix well.
- Grill a medley of vegetables—potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, fennel bulbs, and corn-on-the-cob, for example. When just about done, drizzle some hot ghee on the veggies and top with basil or rosemary.
- Peel and grate a cucumber. Add some fresh yogurt. Season. Add aroma with roasted and ground cumin seeds, and color with a pinch of paprika. Top with finely-chopped mint leaves and a bit of crushed ginger.
- Top diced fruit with this piquant dressing: 1 part lemon juice, 1 part orange juice, fresh mint leaves, and crushed ginger, all blended together.
- Fines herbes is a pleasant, delicate combination of finely-chopped French chervil, parsley, French thyme, and French tarragon. It’s available dried, but tastes excellent with fresh herbs, too. Add it to soups, stews, and vegetable stock for a subtle aroma and flavor.
- Make a power-packed flatbread; knead together two cups of gram flour (chickpea flour), half a cup of wheat bran, and one-fourth cup of unbleached wheat flour. Use one part each whipped yogurt and water to knead the dough. Add dried fenugreek leaves, half a teaspoon of ajwain, a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, and a teaspoon of ghee. Roll the soft, pliable dough into flat, thin circles or squares. Cook on a cast-iron griddle, turning over until golden brown on both sides.
Using fresh herbs can be as simple as chopping them up to top a dish, or incorporating them into a slow-cooked meal. Either way, you’ll be adding flavor, aroma, and health benefits to your food.
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