Overview of Herbs

People often think of raw foods as comprising fruits and vegetables, nuts and pulses and maybe some fungi such as mushrooms, and occasionally cured meats such as Parma ham or beef jerky. But the humble herb is often overlooked as a rich source of nutrition and a flavor-packed addition to any meal. Here we'll take a bird's eye view of some of the more popular herbs that are commonly added to meals in their natural, uncooked state.

parsleyIt should be remembered that there are some herbs that are generally dried and added to cooked food because they provide more flavor that way. But there are many more that are actually very flavorsome when used as nature intended.

More Common Culinary Herbs

The most common of these are those that are used in many dishes and are added as chipped or torn leaves to impart their unique aroma as well as taste to certain foods.

Basil

basilThis is a common accompaniment to tomatoes and all dishes that incorporate this highly nutritious and important fruit (that some see as a vegetable). Basil interacts with the tomato to release its antioxidant properties while making the perfect harmonious partnership of all foods.

The green leaves are generally loosely ripped and spread across sliced or quartered tomatoes in salads and cold dishes. In Mediterranean dishes, it is often also accompanied by chopped garlic and olive oil to create a nutrient packed, highly flavored but simple starter to many dished.

Thyme

This tiny leaved plant can be added to salad or pasta dishes, finely chopped in small quantities to bring out some amazing flavors. It contains many important nutrients as well as being a healthy addition to uncooked meals.

Sorrel

This large leaved herb is sometimes used as a salad green in place of lettuce for a distinctive tasting dish that copes very well with vinaigrette dressings of varying types.

Borage

The young leaves can also be used as salad greens in place of lettuce, There is a bonus that the star shaped blue flowers are also edible. These can be added to the same dish to create a visual spectacle that is sure to stimulate the mental processes that get the digestive juices flowing.

The flowers taste of mild cucumber and have a variety of health benefits.

Marjoram

This group includes oregano which is a common flavoring in many "Italian style" cooked pasta dishes, although it does not make many appearances in its raw state in foods. The small leaves can be added to certain cold dishes without drying or cooking to add a pleasing taste and aroma.

Nasturtium

The green leaves can be loosely chopped and added to salads to impart a mild peppery flavor that is pleasant and interesting. The edible sweet and slightly peppery flavored flowers can also be added to the same dish. Even the unripe green seed pods are edible, although they are much more peppery than the leaves or flowers.

Chives

Some meals really benefit from a mild onion taste and chives are a great way to provide it. They are easy to chop and can be added to many different meals. There is a variation of this herb that has a garlic taste and aroma (commonly called garlic chives) that is also an interesting and unusual addition to some dishes.

Other Noteworthy Mentions

There are several other common culinary herbs that are excellent natural additions to many meals. These include mint, parsley, fennel, curry leaves, coriander leaves (cilantro), sage, Melissa (lemon balm), lemon verbena and many more too numerous to include in this short article.

Conclusion

There are many other herbs that can be gathered in the wild that can be used in their raw state to invigorate and add interest to many meals. Some need blanching to remove any bitterness, as in the case of dandelion leaves. But it is a great way to surprise your guests when you serve up different meals that include some of the most unexpected, yet tasty green ingredients or flowers.