Growing up to Middle Eastern parents, I did not realize how fortunate that I was to come from a culture that placed such importance on the ingredients and flavors that went into our foods. All the meals they prepared were laced with savory herbs and spices that not only made the taste buds dance, but our bodies thrive. One spoonful offers a range of layered ambrosial experiences. Persian food in general is very spice and herb forward, not spicy, but a beautiful blend of sweet and sour.
Without effort, moving from one country to another where the cuisine and ingredients shifted so drastically, my parents managed to keep the flame of their ancestral cooking alive. Whether I appreciated it or not, my exposure the countless hours I spent following them to the Persian super market and watching them labor away in the kitchen to create their masterpieces, would one day serve me well.
Now, I am still influenced by these herbs and spices. I try to encourage students and clients to integrate more of these herbs in their cooking as each one has a wide variety of health benefits.
Here are a handful of my favorite summer herbs!
Basil is a powerhouse herb, containing many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Basil elicits memories of my father who would grow this in our yard and eat it as he plucked it as if he were eating candy.
Many of the benefits that this plant carries come from the basil leaves, which carry the antioxidants and essential oils of the plant. Some of the many benefits of this herb are reduced inflammation, increased immune support, improved mental health, regulated sugar levels, and reduction of oxidative stress.
Cilantro has always been an herb that either one loves or hates. It has a very strong taste. It is commonly found in foods like guacamole. Powerful benefits of this plant can be found in Cilantro leaves and in the seeds, which are often referred to as Coriander.
Cilantro is most well-known for its properties that can assist with cognitive ability. Most importantly, it has been able to help reduce symptoms of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease and assist with sharpness of memory. Other benefits this plant offers are blood sugar regulation, decrease in anxiety, and prevention of food borne diseases.
Dill epitomizes spring and summer. It is everything that is green, herbaceous, and cooling in nature. It can be tossed into anything from eggs to salad, to grains and fish. This grass-like herb has a punchier flavor than its relative celery, which is why it is often used to enhance cooking. Other than its spectacular flavor, dill, especially fresh dill has great benefits for your body.
Benefits can be found in both the dill seed and the dill weed. One of the best benefits this herb holds is the ability to assist with Type-2 Diabetes and help prevent it. Another benefit of Dill is that it assists in preventing heart disease and stroke, and it can possibly assist with lowering cholesterol levels.
Although mint has been a much-appreciated herb in many cultures and cuisines, I have always had a particular penchant for it, whether it be in an infusion, topping a salad, or blended into a stew. Mint and lemon/lime are by far one of my favorite combinations.
Coming from the plant family of lamiaceae, it's thought to be beneficial for brain health, keeping you more alert and focused. However, the biggest benefit of this herb is improving digestion, and it can be especially beneficial for irritable bowel syndrome.
The older I get, the more I have come to appreciate parsley. It may have even risen to the top of my all-time favorite herbs to cook with. What once seemed to be a plebeian herb, has completely transformed the flavor of the meals that I make. There are two types of parsley, curly leaf and flat leaf parsley. Curly leaf parsley isn't often used in cooking as its flavor isn't as strong as the Italian flat leaf parsley, so curly leaf parsley is often only used as a garnish.
A tablespoon of fresh parsley can have huge health benefits for your body. It can assist with lowering blood pressure and helping with any bloating you may experience in your body. Some other great benefits are cancer prevention, bone health, and eye health.
These are only a handful of my favorite flavors eliciting memories of my youth. I cannot help but to also think of thyme and tarragon, among others, when I think of other ingredients that I appreciate and use often. There are endless ways to spice and spruce up our meals. The beauty of these ingredients is that they can for the most part be combined or used separately making for a unique eating experience every time.
I invite you to add sprinkles of different herbs to your cooking. Your body and your taste buds will thank you for it.
Check out our recipes including fresh herbs.
DISCLAIMER: This is not medical advice, and it should only be used for educational purposes. Please seek medical assistance for treatments of any medical ailments.