The Spice of Life! ©
Reprint from Western Pa Health and Fitness Magazine
tiny bottles in your kitchen spice rack contain a powerhouse
of possibilities. Herbs, enjoying resurgence in popularity,
have a rich history as a staple of daily life. What master
herbalist Susan Weed calls our green allies can
add zest to a meal, freshen the air or sooth a sore throat.
use of herbs in cooking goes as far back as the first-century
cookbook, written by the Roman epicure, Apicius. Many herbal
combinations are reflected in modern recipes for soups, salads,
fish, desserts and beverages.
offer us a rapport with nature. Babylonian clay tablets from
3000 B.C. show medical treatments. During the next 1000 years,
cultures in China, Assyria, Egypt and India developed a written
record of mainly medicinal herbs. Egyptian writings dating
back from 1500 B.C. contains medical prescriptions and cosmetic
and aromatic uses of herbs.
developed for pleasure, books included the aesthetic appeal
of herbs as garden plants. The visual and scent appeal of
an herb garden can give us much pleasure.
Benefits of Herbs
The country with the longest tradition of herbal medicine
is China. The legendary Emperor Shen Nung, who died in 2698
B.C. wrote the Canon of Herbs. His text deals with 252 plants
and how to administer them.
years later, the Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti, formalized herbal
medical theory in the Nei Ching. In the seventh century, the
government of the Tang dynasty printed and distributed A Revised
Canon of Herbs throughout China. In 1578, Li Shizhen completed
a world famous Compendium of Materia Medica, which listed
1800 healing substances and 11,000 recipes or compounds.
Babylonians had an enormous pharmacopoeia with 1400 plants.
At about the same time, Indian physicians were using hundreds
of herbs in their treatments.
brought Western medicine into the scientific framework of
diagnosis and treatment. He dismissed the idea of disease
being punishment from the gods and considered food, occupation
and climate as important factors in disease. He believed it
was the individuals responsibility to aid in self-healing
through diet and plant medicines.
the ascendancy of science in the 19th century came the ability
to synthesize plant parts and concentrate doses. Today, because
of the great concern about the side effects of drugs, an understanding
of ecology, and peoples desire to take greater responsibility
for their health, herbal medicine is experiencing a remarkable
ironic that herbology is considered an alternative,
since for thousands of years people have turned to plants
for healing, and the relatively new science of synthetic drugs
is viewed as orthodox.
Wayne R. Fiscus, a chiropractor and wholistic health practitioner,
advised that using herbs that grow in the part of the country
where you live is best. Herbs and preparations from the other
side of the globe may not have the desired effect.
when choosing herbal teas, use caution. Use single herb teas
rather than those with combinations of herbs. Herbs can be
powerful and potent medicines. It is best to consult a qualified
herbalist or health practitioner who has training in and understanding
of the use of herbs.
and when to tap the little Herb Power into your cooking
Ancient Egyptians and Greeks recorded dill as a soothing medicine.
Early settlers took dill to North America, where it became
known as meetin seed, because children were
given dill to chew on during long sermons. Uses: The seed
can be added whole or ground to soups, fish dishes, pickles,
cabbage, breads. Finely chop the leaf and add to soup, potato
salads, salmon and grilled fish or boil with new potatoes.
Crush the seed and infuse as a strengthening bath for nails.
Dried dill leaves retain only a little flavor. So use generously
when cooking and add at the last minute.
It drives from the French estragon and the Latin dracunculus,
a little dragon. The dragon connection may come
from tarragons fiery tang and its serpent-like
roots. It can sweeten the breath, act as a soporific, and,
if chewed before taking medicine, dull the taste.
leaf sparingly for a warm subtle flavor, which diffuses quickly
through other ingredients. Use for béarnaise, tartar
and hollandaise sauces. Add shredded leaf to avocado fillings,
mayonnaise for fish dishes, salad dressings, light soups,
tomatoes. Good in stuffing. leaves are rich in iodine, mineral
salts, Vitamins A and C.
A most versatile herb, popular as a garden flower for use
in cosmetic and culinary, as a dye and for its healing properties.
Ancient Egyptians valued it as a rejuvenating herb. Hindus
used it to decorate temple altars. Persians and Greeks garnished
and flavored food with its golden petals. It is a soothing
antiseptic and an excellent skin healer. Use Marigold metals
lavishly to give a saffron color and add light tang flavor
to rice, fish, soups, soft cheese, cakes and sweet breads.
Sprinkle the leaf in salads and stews. Dry the flower and
use the petals to add color to potpourri. Infuse the flower
and use it as a healing mouthwash for gums.
This remarkable flower, cultivated by American Indians, derives
its name from helios, the Greek work for the sun. In the 15th
century Aztec sun priestesses were crowed with sunflowers.
All parts of the sunflower are usable. Shell and eat the seeds
raw or roast on cookie sheets in over 10 to 15 minutes at
300 degrees. Add sprouted seeds to salads and sandwiches.
Eat the raw flower buds in salads, or steam and serve like
artichokes. Seeds are rich in vitamins B1, B2, niacin, iron,
phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, vegetable fats and proteins.
The bay tree was scared to Apollo, Green god prophecy, poetry
and healing, Apollos temple at Delphi had a roof made
entirely of bay leaves for protection against disease, witchcraft
and lightning. Use the leaves in stews, soups and sauces.
Add to marinates, stock, stuffing, pate, curry, game and poached
fish broth. Add to dried beans when cooking to make the beans
easier to digest and eliminate gas. Remove leaf before serving.
Hang the branches to freshman and perfume the air.
An important culinary herb with a warm spicy flavor, it is
a favorite of many cooks. A native to Indian, basil is held
in reverence there as a plant of divine essence. The Indians
chose this herb upon which to swear their oaths in court.
Pound basil leaf with oil or tear with fingers. Do not chop.
Add last minute to cooked dishes. Sprinkle over salads and
sliced tomatoes. Basils rich, pungent flavor complements
garlic. Place pots of basil on windowsills to deter flies.
One of the oldest flavoring herbs, it is considered an antiseptic
beneficial to the digestive tract. The Romans added savory
to sauces and vinegars and introduced it to Northern Europe.
Cook Summer Savory with beans, fresh or dried, or in white
sauces. Mix with parsley and chives for roasting poultry.
Sprinkle finely chopped leaves on soups and sauces. The flowers
can be infused as a tea to stimulate appetite, ease digestion.
Can also serve as antiseptic gargle.
On a hot, summer day, haymakers would eat the succulent leaves
to quench their thirst. Most sorrel has a sharp acidic flavor.
Buckler leaf sorrel boasts a milder lemony zest. It is preferred
by the French for sorrel soup. Eat raw young Sorrel leaves
in salads or sorrel soup. Cook like spinach. Use to season
vegetable soups, in sauces, and to season omelets. Use the
juice of sorrel leaf to bleach rust, mold and ink stains from
linen, wicker and silver.