Most herbs have been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes, to treat almost everything from coughs and colds to arthritis and leprosy. They were even thought to ward off evil spirits and bad luck and some herbs were regarded as symbols of bravery, love and fertility.
Many people today still prefer to use natural herbal remedies in order to cure their ailments rather than going to the doctor's for a prescription of pills. More and more people are rediscovering the simple way of life and are turning to natural foods and fresh herbs in order to stay healthy.
Different types of herbs have different flavours and therefore certain herbs go well with certain types of foods. For example, basil is always paired with tomatoes, sage is used in stuffing and oregano can be added to all Italian-style sauces.
You will also find that if you are a lover of Italian cooking, you will be using a wide range of fresh herbs, particularly basil, oregano, sage and rosemary. The Spanish, on the other hand, are not great lovers of herbs but you won't find a savoury dish that does not contain olive oil
, onions or garlic.
If you buy freshly cut herbs from your supermarket, they should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag for up to three or four days. Try to use them as quickly as possible before they wilt and go off.
On the other hand, if you choose to grow your own herbs, you can cut them from the plant as you need them, but try to make sure that they continue to grow a bit more before cutting them again.
Fresh herbs have a much more delicate flavour than the dried form of the herb, which tend to be more concentrated. For this reason, if you choose to use the fresh form of the herb instead of the dried, you will need much larger amounts. Generally, the ratio is 1 tsp of dried herb to 1 tbsp of fresh herb or three times as much fresh herb to dried herb (3 -1).
Our herb guide takes a look at a number of popular herbs that are used in the kitchen and details information about their history, nutritional value, their health benefits and also gives a few ideas on how they can be used in your recipes.
Some of the most popular herbs used in cooking that you will find in our guide are basil, parsley, coriander, chives, sage, oregano, thyme, mint and rosemary.