Great Herbs and Spices

Why Use Fresh Herbs and Spices

Nothing beats the taste of fresh herbs and spices. If foods are seasoned properly with the right kind or blend of fresh herbs and spices the taste buds will automatically fire just at the mere scent of these foods --- prior to them being cooked. When they are being prepared, some may even find themselves salivating, feeling hungry, as they anxiously wait for these meals to be served. 

 Many people have not been using spices and fresh herbs, simply because they are either clueless as to the difference certain fresh herbs and spices can make when it comes to enhancing the taste of food or just don't know what type of herbs they can use to bring out the best taste of certain foods. In fact, some people refrain from cooking or even eating certain foods, simply because they just don't know how to prepare them using the right herbs and spices to make them delicious, savory, and appetizing. It could also be that they might have had these dishes once, but got turned off by the way they were prepared, so they vouched they will never eat those food items again. However, when these same food were prepared by someone else with the right blend of herbs and spices, some of these individuals find themselves having a change of  mind. 

How to Use Herbs and Spices to Add Flavor to Your Food

You can either sprinkle a few dashes or add a precise amount of each spice and herb directly into the pot while the food item is being cooked. For meat, in order to get the best flavor, it's best that you use a blender or a food processor to blend all your spices and seasonings together, adding a bit of water to prepare a thick liquid marinade. You can then pour this marinade directly into the container with your meat, and use it to thoroughly season it. 

Don't be afraid to use your hands to rub this marinade all over your meat. Puncturing especially big slabs of meat with a sharp knife, will allow this blend of season to diffuse into the more deeper inner portion of the meat.  The final step to this approach is to tightly seal this container then refrigerate it, and allow your meat to soak up a bit more of this marinade overnight or for at least 4 hours, prior to cooking. If you are pressed for time or just want to put a quick meal together, you may add your spices and herbs directly to your meat, then use your hands to rub your seasonings all over your meat, before cooking it.

Below are some of the many fresh herbs that are just marvelous to use in food preparation, not only because of the great flavor they add to the food, but also because of their health benefits.
Fresh Garlic

 Benefits of Garlic

Garlic (The edible bulb of a plant from the onion family) has been widely used for several medicinal purposes and also as a spice for cooking over several decades. Based on the result of several studies, it's very likely that garlic may slow the development of artherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition known to cause heart disease or stroke. Researchers have also found evidence that garlic may slightly lower high blood pressure and thin the blood in a similar manner like aspirin, thus reducing the ability of the blood to clot.

Preparing Fresh Garlic

After removing the outer covering of the garlic, I prefer to first press each clove, then mince it. Cutting the garlic into smaller pieces without pressing it will not allow the aroma to be released from all cells of the garlic, as a result, you will not get the full strength. The fresher the garlic, the stronger the scent, and the better it will be for adding flavor to your food.

Alternative to Fresh garlic

You can use the powdered garlic, garlic salt or even purchase the minced garlic in the bottle container if you wish. Although these will not give you the same standout flavor as fresh garlic, they work well also.

Preparing  Fresh Ginger

Fresh Ginger
First, break one or two pieces off this whole root of ginger and lightly scrape the outer skin from them.You should then cut each piece into smaller pieces, or press them first, then mince them. If you are going to use the juice of the ginger, it's best to remove the skin then grate it. After you grate it, you should boil it in a small portion of water to get the full strength of the ginger. As soon as the water starts to boil, just cut the flame and let it sit and cool down for about five minutes before using a strainer to get rid of the ginger particles. Grating allow you to remove all the aroma from the cells of the ginger, thus providing you with the full strength of the ginger. The more ginger you use the stronger the flavor.


Alternative To Fresh Ginger

You can also purchase the powdered ginger from most whole food stores, produce markets, and even local supermarkets. This may not give your food the same savory flavor as fresh ginger, but is also a good substitute.

Other Use of Ginger

Ginger is commonly used for upset stomach and nausea. It's believed to help with digestion, and saliva flow. Based on findings, ginger also appears to help with painful periods.  For example, more than 60% of all the women that participated in one study felt that ginger lessened their menstrual pain. There's strong evidence that ginger may also ease osteoarthritis pain. Although lab and animal studies have found that ginger may, help with the following:
  • Lessen swelling
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Protect against Alzheimer's disease
  • Prevent blood clotting. 
To date, no studies have been conducted in humans.                            

Preparing Fresh Scallion

Fresh Scallion
The best way to prepare fresh scallion is to first cut the roots from the head, then wash and press or crush each stalk. When you crush the scallion as opposed to chopping, you are essentially opening the cells of each stalk, releasing the full strength of the aroma trapped inside. You should then use all these crushed pieces to directly rub all over the meat you are marinating. You can also add all the other powdered seasonings such as your seasoning salt, paprika, black pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, etc. to these crushed stalks of scallion and then use them to rub over all areas of the meat you are preparing. When seasoning big slaps of meat especially, this method works better than chopping. If you are preparing vegetables, or other dishes chopping is okay.

 Preparing Fresh Cilantro

Fresh Cilantro
Chopping fresh cilantro finely is the traditional way of preparing it. After removing a few branches from the bunch, you first wash them with tap water, then bunch them together and chop them on a clean chopping/cutting board with a sharp sturdy knife. As you chop the branches --- including leaves and stems--- you will immediately smell this strong but breathtaking aroma as it's being released from the cells of this fresh flavorful herb. This is the best time to use it to marinate or rub all over your meat to give it a wonderful flavor. To get the best or full strength of this herb, make several slits in your meat and use cilantro along with your other herbs/seasonings to marinate it overnight or for at least 4 hrs, prior to cooking. Cilantro can also be used as a great seasoning for your soups and other dishes.

 Alternative to Fresh Cilantro

You may also use Cilantro Base as an alternative to fresh Cilantro. This comes in a jar and can be purchased from the supermarket; usually you will find this in the ethnic aisle. This prepared jar has other ingredients added to it and is definitely a great substitute.

Fresh Parsley
When using fresh parsley as a seasoning, it's usually finely chopped, or blend with other herbs to make a marinade. You can also use it in soups, stews or in other dishes unchopped. For years parsley (especially the dried leaves) has been used in the food industry as a garnish (to give food an appealing appearance).

Alternative to Fresh Parsley

Parsley is also available in the form of dried flakes (Parsley Flakes). Although this will not give your food the same flavor as the fresh green parsley, it's still a perfect alternative. As mentioned above, it's also a popular garnish.

Health Benefits of Parsley

Parsley is believed to have some health benefits and is currently used for the following:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) 
  • Kidney stones (nephrolithiasis) 
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders 
  • Constipation 
  • Jaundice 
  • Intestinal gas (flatulence) 
  • Indigestion
  • Colic 
  • Diabetes 
  • Cough 
  • Asthma 
  • Fluid retention (edema) 
  • Osteoarthritis
  • “tired blood” (anemia) 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Prostate and spleen conditions 

It is also used as an aphrodisiac, and as a breath freshener, and allegedly helps to stimulate the appetite, improve digestion, increase urine production, reduce spasms, and increase menstrual flow. However, the appropriate dose is still unknown.

Fresh Basil
Basil is also another excellent herb that people have been using for cooking for many years. Just like all the other green herbs, you either chop basil or blend it with other spices and herbs to make a marinade. You can also use dried basil as an alternate to green fresh basil, but again, it won't  add the same degree of flavor to your food.

Medicinal Use

Basil is also believed to have several health benefits. Below is a list of some of the health conditions it's used to treat :

  • common cold
  • Bronchitis
  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Flu
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Insect bites
  • Kidney problems
  • Skin problems
  • Snake bites
  • Stomach problems

It's also used as an antioxidant, for protecting the liver, and for treating diabetes.

Fresh Thyme
Fresh thyme does wonders to your food, as far as flavor is concerned. You may chop it finely or just use a few branches (sprigs) unchopped to spice up your food. You don't have to use the entire bunch of thyme, unless you are cooking for a large group. Usually a few sprigs are sufficient if you are using it to season meat, vegetables, soups or any other food. As an alternative, you may use the dried thyme which is also available at your local grocery stores, produce market or spice stores.

Fresh Rosemary
Worldwide, people have been using Rosemary as spice for cooking. You either chop or use one or two sprigs to add flavor to your food. You can also use it to brew a soothing cup of tea. 

Medicinal Purpose

It's believed that Rosemary may help with many health issues such as: 

  • Digestion problems including heartburn, intestinal gas (flatulence), liver and gallbladder complaints, and loss of appetite. 
  • Gout 
  • Cough, 
  • Headache, 
  • High blood pressure,
  • Reducing age-related memory loss.

Fresh Mint

Mint, like the other fresh herbs above, may be chopped and combined with other herbs and spices to add great flavor to your food. Just use one or more branches of fresh mint to add a fresh minty flavor to your food. You can also use it make a soothing cup of tea.

Other Purposes

  • Believed to stimulate the digestive system
  • For cramps, gas, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach problems

Spices That Further Enhance Flavor

  • Lawry's seasoned Salt (No MSG)
  • Paprika
  • Black Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Curry Powder
  • Pimientos
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne Pepper

All the above dried spices can be obtained from your local Supermarket or Spice Store. There are numerous brands from which you may choose. Some of these includes:- Mccomick, Spice Classics, Spice Supreme, Marcum Gourmet Spices, Spice Treasures, Jamaican Choice, Goya and more. Depending on what you are preparing, these spices when used in conjunction with your fresh herbs, can further enhance the flavor of your food immensely. Lawry's Seasoning Salt(No MSG) for example, is a mixture of salt, sugar, spices (including paprika and tumeric), onion, cornstarch, and garlic. For this reason, I personally consider it one of the top all purpose spices for cooking. Secondly, there is no need to add additional table salt to your food when you use Lawry's Seasoned Salt.
Lawry's Seasoned Salt

Curry Powder


Whole Cumin

Pimiento berries

Jamaica Hot Jerk Sauce

Jamaica Meat Browning




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