A Word about Herbs

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I love my herb patch. I wish I were better at growing vegetables, but as I’m not I take comfort from the fact that herbs are really good for you. As I have said before (and almost certainly) will say again, one of the easiest and most overlooked way to improve our diets, and indeed our health, is to add fresh herbs to our food. However it sometimes seems as if we understood their wide ranging properties better generations ago, and now only use them in the precise way a recipe calls for them.

There are various ways to get a variety of these green vitamin boosts into our diets, but I really like to make this paste, and I use it as a secret ingredient in a LOT of things. It is delicious on good bread with a bit of cheese, or cheese on toast, added to salad dressing, added to cooked beans for flavour, stirred through orzo as a delicious side dish and added to all sorts of sauces to add depth.

 Secret Ingredient Herb Paste

 About 50g of fresh herbs, use a variety here and whatever you have to hand- the point is not to do an extra shopping trip, but to adapt to what you have, basil, thyme, coriander, sage, chives, fennel, oregano, parsley are all good. I also use any of the salad leaves I have left over that aren’t looking that fresh anymore, rocket, water cress or spinach would be good.

A teaspoon or so of maldon salt

About 30 ml of olive oil, or a splash more if more is needed to make the paste come together.

Place all the ingredients in a blender, blitz and enjoy! You could also add a clove of garlic if you fancy something spicier. Store in a jar in the fridge, it will keep for a couple of days (if you don’t eat it all in one go) but it will loose its bright green colour, and, undoubtedly, some of its goodness.

 

Health Benefits:

Most herbs are nutritional powerhouses. Parsley, for example, has 153% of your RDA of vitamin K in just two tablespoons, Thyme has more iron in it than spinach and all the herbs that I use are a very good source of other minerals including manganese, magnesium, selenium, calcium and copper. Basil contains two water soluble flavonoids (orientin and vicenin) which help to protect cell structure and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen based damage. It inhibits bacterial growth, and it has been suggested that we should be washing our raw veg in a 1% solution of its essential oil in order to prevent bacterial growth. That, or just put it in the salad with them. Its anti-inflammatory effects blocks the enzyme COX, which is the same way Ibuprofen and Aspirin work, and therefore is great for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and IBS.

Thyme contains Thymol, which has great anti-septic and anti-fungal properties, and its flavonoid anti-oxidant levels are the highest amongst all the herbs. You can use it in cooking, but also as a tea to help relieve coughs, sore throats and the symptoms of bronchitis.

Parsley, if eaten often enough, can also help in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthrits and its high folate (B9) levels mean that high levels of the amino acid homecysteine, which can damage blood vessels, are converted back into harmless molecules, therefore helping to combat heart disease.

Chives contain substances that convert to allicin, as garlic does, when chopped or crushed and help fight heart disease by reducing the stiffness of blood vessels and therefore blood pressure, and by blocking platelet clot formation. Rosemary and sage (as well as others) contain rosemarinic acid, an anti-inflamatory anti-oxidant which is absorbed easily, and can help in treating asthma. Sage has long been known as a memory enhancer, and recent studies show it may be beneficial in the treatment of cerebrovascular disease, as well as provide benefits for diabetes suffers due to its effect on insulin’s action.

This is only the briefest over view, but the up shot is, we could all be eating a lot more herbs and getting a lot more natural goodness into our diets, without drastically altering them, or breaking the bank.

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