Tips and recipes for enjoying the salt-free flavor of fresh herbs.
By: Jodie Shield, RD
This summer I grew my very first herb garden. My family was skeptical because while I can cook, they know I don’t have a green thumb. Guilty as charged! That’s why I decorate my house with silk plants! But after reading a great article about how easy it is to grow a herb garden, I felt inspired. Everyone knows if you really want to add salt-free flavor to food, nothing beats fresh herbs. What’s wrong with salt? Nothing unless you consume too much which sadly, most of us do. Too much of the “white-grainy stuff” can aggravate some people’s blood pressure and increases stroke risk. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day (1 teaspoon of salt has 2,400 milligrams of sodium). And if you’re over the age of 51, African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease the daily recommendation is no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (somewhere between ½ to ¾ teaspoon of salt). Keep in mind; if you eat out often, especially at fast food restaurants, or eat processed foods (that’s anything not homemade) chances are you’re way over your daily sodium quota.
In honor of More Herbs, Less Salt Day (August 26th), I wanted to share some tips and recipes about flavoring foods with herbs. Here are the four herbs I successfully grew in my garden and you can too – next year! In the meantime, you can pick up some fresh herbs up at your local farmers market or grocery store.
Basil – Basil is a member of the mint family; it has a strong and slightly sweet aroma. There are many different types of basil such as Amethyst, Lemon, Thai Magic just to name a few; each subtly different in fragrance and taste. Basil plays a key role in Mediterranean, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s one of the most widely used herbs for seasoning tomatoes and tomato sauce because it compliments the flavor of garlic and olives. Basil is also delicious combined with lemon. I use a lot of fresh basil in my Perfect Pasta Sauce recipe.
Parsley – Parsley has long, slender stalks, feathery leaves, and a tangy, somewhat lemony flavor. There are two main types of parsley: curly leaf and flat-leaf. Although both types of parsley are commonly used as a garnish, flat leaf parsley has a more intense, peppery flavor and is used more often in cooking. I like to add parsley to soups, marinades, and salads. I toss some in at the end when I make Linguine with White Clam Sauce, because parsley helps draw out the flavor of the other herbs in recipe.
Rosemary – Rosemary has needle-shaped evergreen leaves and a piney, lemony flavor. It is frequently used in Mediterranean cuisine often sprinkled on breads like focaccia bread or placed into the cavity of chicken or fish before roasting. I like to rub rosemary over lamb, beef and pork. Check out my Grilled Flank Steak with Mango Chutney.
Thyme – This beautiful fresh herb has small, gray-green leaves and tiny purple flowers. Thyme has a strong, somewhat bitter flavor, which makes it a perfect herb to use for making stuffing, soup, or dishes with potatoes and beans as the main ingredient. I like to add it to pasta sauces and meats. Check out my Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing.