Growing a herb garden at home is simple, easy and very inexpensive. Herbs add that extra depth of flavour to recipes; they also have some great healing properties.
Fresh herbs can add flavour to sauces or crusts for roasted meats. Fresh herbs are available at the supermarket all year round but growing your own is a great way to have control over what you eat. Growing herbs at home is easy whether you live in a house or an apartment.
There is an endless list of herbs with healing properties, but we’ve decided to focus on five herbs that are common in NZ. These herbs can be grown from seed or plant and you don’t need green fingers to keep them alive (trust me as I kill nearly every plant that enters our home). The only trick is to not water too much, have good drainage and prune from the top to allow more growth.
Basil is a versatile herb and is commonly used in Italian dishes, although it has Thai heritage. Basil leaves have essential oils containing anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It is a good source of iron and vitamin A.
Tip: Make your own homemade pesto with basil leaves or add some fresh basil to a tomato sauce, you’ll notice the difference.
Coriander (cilantro) contains anti-oxidants and anti-bacterial properties. It is a great source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. Fresh coriander also contains folic acid, vitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin C, and it is said to promote healthy liver function.
Tip: Coriander is commonly found in Indian cuisine. Add some fresh leaves to a curry or a stirfry, or even add a sprig to a healthy green smoothie.
Parsley is a super-herb. It can be added to a variety of dishes. It boosts your immune system and heals your nervous system with vitamins such as vitamin C, B12, K and A. Regular consumption can help control blood pressure and joint pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Tip: Use fresh leaves to make parsley tea, which aids digestion. Add to sauces and use to garnish dishes.
Rosemary contains caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, which are potent anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. It also contains vitamin E which is great for healthy skin and it has been known to improve memory and elevate your mood. It has also been found to reduce carcinogens, meaning it’s anti-cancer.
Tip: Rosemary goes well with NZ lamb and also adds flavour to stuffing. It can help cure migraines: Boil fresh rosemary in a pot of water, place a towel over your head and inhale the steam from the pot for 10 minutes.
Mint is a wonderful aromatic herb and it can be used in so many different ways. It goes great in salads, stir fries, smoothies, desserts, tea or smoothies (or my fave Mojitos). It is great for digestion and can freshen your breath. It contains vitamins A and C, and minerals; calcium, copper, and iron.
Tip: Breathing the scent of fresh mint in boiling water can provide great relief for respiratory conditions such as asthma or a bad cough because it opens up the nose, throat and lungs.
Fresh herbs are one of the greatest ways to increase the taste of your food healthfully. I often toss whatever leafy herbs are hand liberally into a salad to add unexpected variations in flavor (basil, oregano and dill are all great choices).