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Spotlight on Herbs & Spices

Wooden table with pasta, basil and tomatoes

 

Spice up Your Taste Buds and Build Immune Strength with Spices

The creative food enthusiasts of today typically rave about spices as a delicious way to enhance a recipe without adding extra salt, sugar, or fats.  But spices not only excite our taste buds with a next-to-none calorie impact, they are composed of an impressive list of phytonutrients, essential oils, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins to promote good health. Needless to say, they are well equipped to boost our overall wellness while supporting delicious flavour variety in our diets.

Additionally, as products of the earth, spices are abundant in plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have diverse disease preventing and health promoting properties. Aptly so, they have been in use since ancient times for their anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and analgesic properties. Moreover, today their popularity has widened, with usage reaching almost every household on earth!

Medicinally, and of great nutrition importance, the active components in certain spices may help support digestion by stimulating secretion of enzymes in the gut. Curious to learn more about optimizing our digestive health? We encourage you to give our blog on the topic a read. In addition, consciously upping the spice factor in your life provides a healthy dose of disease-fighting antioxidants and a boost to the immune system. Of note, while antioxidants may not prevent colds or flu, they will help strengthen the immune system so you can recover more quickly.  Antioxidants are usually associated with foods like berries or leafy greens, but herbs and spices also give you a considerable bang for your buck.

 

Culinary uses of spices

Though the flavour profile of spices overall is extremely diverse, in general terms, spices tend to be aromatic or pungent in flavour, and peppery or slightly bitter to taste. In light of this, they should be consumed in relatively small quantities in recipes (as a little goes a very long way). To keep their fragrance and flavour intact, spices should be added to recipes at the final moment (prolonged cooking results in evaporation of much of their essential oils). For centuries, spices have been employed in the preparation of soups, stews, barbecue sauces, pickling, and as a main ingredient in a variety of curry powders and sauces. Spices, along with some seasonal herbs, are also commonly used to enhance the flavour and taste of vegetable, chicken, fish, and meat dishes by applying a generous rub on the uncooked product.

Examples of common spices: cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, paprika

Honour those Healthy Herbs too

Similar to their spice cousins, herbs contain unique antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, phytosterols, and many other plants derived nutrient substances, which help equip our body to fight against germs & toxins, and to boost immunity. In general, we encourage growing them yourself whenever possible (small, indoor herb growing kits are all the rage now, and spring is just around the corner!), but if this is not feasible for you, the second best option is  to purchase high quality, and ideally organic, varieties.

 

Culinary uses of herbs

Herbs are a fantastic addition to food, not just because they add distinctive flavour to dishes, but also because they contain many anti-microbial substances that help keep our food protected from bacteria and pathogen growth. And, whether used in creating a vibrant marinade near the beginning of dish preparation of as an attractive garnish at the end, the possibilities around fresh herb use in the kitchen are essentially endless.

 

To get the ball rolling, here are some tried and true serving tips:

  • Fresh herb leaves can be used in the preparation of soups and green sauces (just ensure that you remove the flavour packed leaves before serving!).
  • Chopped, fresh herb leaves can impart richness to vegetable (checkout my Herbed Chickpea Salad in the recipe section of this site) as well as fruit salads (watermelon mint salad, anyone one?).
  • Along with other spicy items (such as jalapeno peppers), select herbs can be used to enhance the flavour and taste of vegetable, chicken, fish, and lean meat dishes while cooking.
  • Some herbs and plant parts like mint, ginger, and liquorice root are increasingly being used to flavour juices and refreshing drinks.

Examples of common herbs: fresh basil, rosemary, dill, peppermint

As we’ve started to touch on in this blog, there are many other beneficial cooking herbs and spices out there to excite your palette and boost the antioxidant quotient provided by your diet. As such, we encourage you to branch out from salt & pepper and try all the wonderful culinary combinations that can be made with these herbs and spices.

After all, variety certainly is the spice of life!