Herbs for a Change

Great Grandma M used to say, “You are what you eat”. Perhaps she said that as she saw her four daughters move away from farm life with all the great natural fruits, vegetables, and meats to live in towns where food would be very different. With all the health problems brought on now-a-days by what we feed our bodies, she was more right than she knew.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about making some changes to your diet. How about those cups of coffee you consume every morning before you rush off to heavens knows what? You say, “What about all those reports that indicate coffee isn’t so bad for you?”. OK, what about all the other reports that show tea is even better?

There is traditional tea made of black or green tea leaves typically grown in some tropical country. Blah, you say you’ve tried those. Herbal teas are widely available commercially. Just check your local store shelves for a big variety. However they are made only with parts of herbs, either a single herb or blends If you grow your own herbs, teas are one of the easiest uses of herbs. They taste good and are relaxing. With strainers and one-use tea bags it is convenient and easy to use your own herbs for tea.

Monarda, also known as bee balm and bergamot, is a great tea herb. This beautiful, easy to grow herb was used traditionally by the native peoples of Canada and the USA, and can be found growing wild throughout much of these regions. Bee balm is relaxing yet stimulating, like many other members of the mint family. It has a bit of a spicy warmth that makes it a perfect herb for a fall or winter tea blend, especially during cold and flu season. The native peoples called it Oswego tea, and used it as a healing brew for a wide variety of ailments, including those of the throat and lungs.

After getting the day off to a good start, what about the rest of the day? This simple suggestion may help – use more herbs! Why use herbs you ask? So you can cut down on salt, of course. We Americans consume way too much salt, which only causes unhealthy problems for us – like high blood pressure and heart disease. So start with cooking. Don’t add salt to water when cooking pasta, vegetables or rice. Use half the salt called for in a recipe. Use sea salt, with the same basic nutritional value as table salt but with a different taste, you will use less. Then use real herbs on just about everything you cook. In honor of March, Frozen Food Month, flavor-up those frozen veggies with some herbs. There are lots of herb blends to be found on the shelves of the baking aisle or on-line from herb farms all over the country.

Begin with a little and then go to a lotta. Add dry herbs at the beginning and fresh herbs near the finish. Your taste buds will soon prefer the new flavors and your heart will be thankful.

If you already use culinary herbs regularly, here are some lesser known herbs to flavor up your cooking.

Tarragon

 Only member of the Artemisia family that tastes good; French has better flavor than Russian. It has a warm, spicy taste; primary herb in many classic French sauces and often included in fine herbs; adds richness to mild vegetables, egg dishes & chicken; makes delicious vinegar for salads.

Lovage

 Every part of the plant is useful and has the same celery-like, spicy-sweet, undertone. Chopped fine, lovage enhances soups, stews, salads, and goes well with poultry and seafood.

Lemon Verbena

This has the strongest lemon scent of any herb. Fresh or dry, the chopped leaves can be added wherever the taste of lemon is wanted. Especially good in teas. Some changes can be challenging but using herbs shouldn’t one of them. Great Grandma M may have been concerned about her daughters’ access to good natural food including herbs, but with all that is available to us today, she shouldn’t have to worry about us. We may just need to go for it

Erin Harwood & Eloyce O’Connor are co-owners of Garden Delights Herb Farm in Brush Prairie, WA, where they grow a variety of herbs for culinary, medicinal, pet, home and garden use. They also offer classes.

 For more info: http://www.gardendelightsfarm.com

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