Thyme and oregano are hardy plants that grow year around and stay healthy and happy even through the recent snow we had in our area. They are extremely easy to grow as are most herbs. Here are my tips for cooking with herbs like these and many more! Don’t forget to read my other articles, Tips for Growing Your Own Herbs and Drying Your Own Herbs.
THYME AND OREGANO
I am listing these two together because many think they are the same and though they are both part of the subfamily of mint, they are not the same. Oregano is stronger and slightly bitter while thyme is mild in flavor and fragrance. They can be used interchangeably in some cases and have some similar properties, such as, it is best to add them at the last minute to keep their flavor and fragrance optimum.
- Thyme contains a volatile oil known as thymol that acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant.
- Thyme tea is useful for menstrual cramps and PMS and to help with sore throats and colds. The following tea recipe has a pleasant taste and kids will love it. To 2 cups boiling water add 2 tsp dried thyme or 3 tsp. fresh thyme. Steep in the boiling water 10 minutes. Strain,add honey and lemon for a delicious drink.
- Thyme contains potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, B complex vitamins, vitamins A,K,E,C and folic acids.
- Insects don’t like thyme, so plant thyme around your garden plants to help protect them from harmful bugs.
- Thyme is delicious in omelets, soups, beans and especially well on fish.
- Greek for joy of the mountain; also called pot marjoram.
- Oregano is a rich source of fiber, vitamin A and C, lutein, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, and helps with digestion.
- A handful of fresh oregano tied in a bundle (use cheese cloth) and added to a hot bath will help with aches and stiff joints.
- Store oregano in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel inside and a bit of air. This will keep the oregano fresh about 3 days. Oregano with the stems in a glass of water, covered loosely with plastic and kept in the refrigerator will keep it fresh a bit longer.
- Oregano is excellent to add to grilled eggplant, omelets, chili, pizza, sauces and grilled chicken basted with fresh oregano and fresh lime juice. Brush dinner rolls before baking with a bit of melted butter, fresh garlic and oregano.
One herb that is taken for granted and not considered for extensive use other than a garnish is parsley. Parsley taken from the Greek word actually means rock celery. In just ½ cup of parsley you will get over 50% vitamin K and C making it excellent to fight heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Plus you will get folate, iron, copper, magnesium, fiber, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B3 and B1. Parsley comes in the flat-leafed Italian or the curly. The flat-leaf Italian is more fragrant and less bitter than the curly variety.
If you get parsley on your plate as a garnish, don’t push it aside, save it to eat last to cleanse your breath and palate and help settle your stomach. It is delicious used with garlic and lemon zest as a rub for any fish or meat. For those times you want a pesto but have no basil, parsley is the perfect substitute! Chopped parsley added to a salad brings another layer of flavor. When storing fresh parsley, wash it and store it in a glass of water in the refrigerator. If your parsley hasn’t been stored this way and is a bit limp, just rinse it off, place it in a glass of water in the refrigerator and it will regenerate itself.
Basil is actually a member of the mint family. Though there are 60 types of basil, the most common is the Sweet Italian basil with a slight licorice flavor. Basil is rich in beta-carotene and helps with cancer prevention. It has anti-inflammatory qualities and helps with gas and stomach upset. Though basil can be dried, it is best used fresh to keep its flavor and color intact. When using basil, it is best to add it at the last possible minute to keep its flavor and color. Basil needs to be torn not cut as cutting will cause the edges to turn black and lose flavor. Fresh it can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep the basil dry as moisture will cause it to wilt. I wrap the basil in a paper towel before putting it in the plastic bag. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. You can store fresh basil in a bit of water in ice cube trays and use it as you need it in sauces, etc. Olive oil is also a good way to use fresh basil. Just drop fresh basil into a mason jar, cover it with olive oil and use it within a week or two.
Tear up some fresh basil and drizzle olive oil over sliced tomatoes, sliced cheese, thinly sliced purple onions and olives for an appetizer. Basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese make a good pesto. There’s nothing better than fresh basil over a cooked hot pizza fresh from the oven!
Rosemary is extremely hardy and drought resistant. Rosemary comes from the family Rosmarinus officinalis. It is rich in B complex vitamins such as folic acid and vitamin A and C. It also contains potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. It helps with cancer prevention, improved memory and offers migraine help to name just a few of its beneficial qualities. To help with migraines, boil two cups of water with 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Put the water and rosemary in a bowl and lean over the bowl with a towel over your head and inhale the steam for 10 minutes. It will provide help to ease the migraine pain.
Other uses for rosemary:
- In a blender, blend together dried rosemary and baking soda. Sprinkle this mixture lightly over your carpet and leave for about 15 minutes before vacuuming. It will freshen your carpet, and make your vacuum smell nice in the process.
- To help with colds and congestion, bring 4 cups of water and one tablespoon of dried rosemary to a boil. After removing the pot from the stove, sit over the pot with a towel over your head and inhale the steam for about 10 minutes.
- In a cheese cloth pouch add dried rosemary (and lavender if you have it) tie it and add to a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Then add the pouch to your bathwater and soak. The scent will help induce sleep. Also, you can use this pouch and the boiled water to add to your foot bath. The herbs will scent your foot bath and help as you scrub away tired skin.
- If you have cats, you may not want them on certain pieces of your furniture or in certain areas of your home. Rosemary is a natural cat repellant and will help keep cats away from those items and areas.
Cooking with Rosemary
- Rosemary adds delicious flavor to soups. Since the stems stay stiff, you can just add a sprig and remove it once the soup is finished cooking.
- The woody stems of rosemary work well for BBQ skewers. They also impart flavor into the food skewered on them.
- If using in a dish, such as potatoes, make sure the stems are chopped very fine.
- Rosemary adds dimension of flavor to meat, soups and salads. Drain a can of cannellini beans, add in a 4 oz. jar of sliced marinated artichoke hearts, one cup of cherry tomatoes sliced, three green onions sliced, minced garlic, rosemary, olive oil and fresh lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and you have another fabulous appetizer!
With over 10,000 herbs in the world…. only covering five herbs means additional articles are sure to come! Be adventurous and creative with the herbs you use! The more you use them, the more uses you’ll find for them. Don’t forget to read my other articles, Tips for Growing Your Own Herbs and Drying Your Own Herbs.