Warming Herbs and Spices for FallMarni Wasserman September 25, 2015
If you want to add some healthy new flavors to your autumn meals, it’s time to move beyond your salt and pepper shakers. There’s an entire world’s worth of herbs and spices out there for you to try, and they’re full of flavour and nutritional benefits. Have fun exploring the many different innovative dishes that you can create using spices and let your taste buds be your tour guide as you experiment with new tastes in the kitchen.
The difference between herbs and spices is where they are obtained from a plant. Herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant. Spices are parts of the plant other than the leafy bit such as the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. Examples of herbs include basil, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley and mint and sage. They are usually grown in more temperate areas than spices and have great medicinal value and are also used in the preparation of cosmetic products.
Spices are usually dried before being used to season foods. Some examples are cinnamon, cumin, cloves, turmeric, chili powder, garlic powder, ground ginger, nutmeg and pepper. Unlike herbs, spices are grown in more tropical countries. They’ve also been known to preserve foods and some have medicinal value (such as turmeric with its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal properties).
Storing herbs and spices – Store your herbs and spices away from heat and light sources. (In other words, don’t store them over the oven or in the window, because the heat and light cause them to lose their flavour more quickly.)
Helpful tips – Replace dried herbs and spices which are older than one year; you can substitute one teaspoon of dried herbs for one tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs.
With the many varieties of herbs and spices that there are to choose from, make sure your spice rack is stocked with these six essential and healthy ones to get you started on your fall cooking adventures.
Health benefits: Turmeric is a plant with a concentrated source of anti-inflammatory properties in its root; its active ingredient, curcumin, is shown to promote liver function and heart health.
Nutritional benefits: Turmeric is rich in iron and manganese, fibre, B6, and potassium, and is the highest known source of beta carotene. The bright yellow pigment of this spice might have a role to play in halting the development of colon cancer.
How to use it: Add turmeric to salad dressings, mix it into brown rice, add some extra turmeric into curry for even more flavour, or add it to lentils or Indian-themed dishes.
Health benefits: Cumin soothes the digestive system, improves liver function, helps you absorb nutrients from other foods, and relieves abdominal bloating, gas, and colic as well as digestive-related migraines and headaches.
Nutritional benefits: Cumin is a good source of iron and helps to stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes.
How to use it: Add this spice to black pepper and honey to flavour vegetables, boil the seeds for a warming tea, add it to legumes for spice and flavour, add it to brown rice with apricots and almonds, add it to sautéed vegetables, or use it in dips, pilafs, and soups.
Health benefits: Parsley is the world’s most popular herb. It contains volatile oils that have been shown to inhibit tumour formation. It also has flavonoids that function as antioxidants which prevent oxygen-based damage to cells.
Nutritional benefits: Parsley helps with digestion. It also detoxifies the body by flushing out fluid from the body, therefore supporting kidney function. It assists in stimulating the bowels, and helps prevent hypertension as it controls blood pressure. The essential oil in parsle, Eugonol, treats tooth and gum diseases, and controls blood sugar levels, which makes it great for people with diabetes. Out of all the herbs, it is the richest in vitamin K, which aids in bone health by helping to build bone mass; and is thought to protect against Alzheimer’s disease by limiting the neuronal damage in the brain.
How to use it: Parsley can be used in vegetable dishes, or as a base for salad dressings. Alternately put a large amount in stews or casseroles. Use parsley in tabbouleh, chop and sprinkle on top of soup, or use it to make pesto.
How to grow your own: Parsley requires partial sunlight to grow and can be grown indoors, next to the windowsill or outside. It should be watered at least once a week and planted in the early spring. Start to harvest once three leaves are developed.
Health benefits: Sage is peppery in taste and treats the consequences of aging. It is a memory enhancer, and mild Alzheimer’s sufferers will benefit from this herb.
Nutritional benefits: Sage lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels as it contains a substantial amount of Rosmarinic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It can also be used to prevent hot flashes in menopausal women.
How to use it: To make sage tea, place a handful of leaves in the bottom of a tea pot, pour boiling water over, and let steep for 10 minutes. To dry it for use in recipes, hang the leaves in a warm, dry, well ventilated area of the house for a few days. Once the leaves are dry, grind them with a mortar and pestle and then place in a glass jar with a tight lid. Store in the cupboard for up to a year.
Gardening tip: Sage grows easily and does not require a lot of care or fuss. This herb should only be watered when the soil is dry and should ideally be planted in direct sunlight, though it will tolerate warm shade. In the first year that it grows, remove only the leaves when harvesting; in subsequent years, the stems can also be used.
Health benefits: The volatile oils in oregano can inhibit the growth of bacteria. And oregano’s numerous phytonutrients are antioxidants that can prevent oxygen-based damage to the cell structures. On a per-gram, fresh-weight basis, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant capacity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and four times more than blueberries.
Nutritional benefits: Oregano is a source of fibre, iron, manganese, calcium, vitamins C and A, and omega-3 fats.
How to use it: Garnish homemade pizza with fresh oregano, add the nutritious herb to sautéed mushrooms and onions, add a few fresh sprigs to a container of olive oil to infuse it, or sprinkle the leaves on omelettes.
Health benefits: Basil is a common herb with a sweet and earthy aroma when fresh and combines well with many other herbs. Basil is beneficial for individuals who have lung- or stomach-related complaints and can also be used to treat mild depression, anxiety, headache, or menstrual pain.
How to use it: It is most commonly used in pesto but basil has over 50 varieties including sweet, bush, and purple type. Basil is easy to grow and it grows inside or outside. It only needs to be watered every few days. A few leaves go a long way and the stems can be great for flavouring broths.
Health benefits: Ginger soothes the stomach and strengthens the digestive ‘fire’; it can also reduce nausea as well as relax the intestinal tract and reduces gas. Ginger prevents motion sickness (especially seasickness) and reduces nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, so those with arthritis may experience reduced pain and improvement in mobility when they consume ginger regularly.
Nutritional benefits: Ginger is a source of magnesium, B6, potassium, manganese, and copper. By increasing circulation, ginger helps you cleanse through the skin, bowels and kidneys. It is anti-inflammatory and helps destroy many intestinal parasites.
How to use it: Add ginger to vegetables, use it to make ginger lemonade; add it to rice dishes along with sesame seeds and nori; combine it with tamari, sesame oil and garlic to make a delicious salad dressing; or add it to sautéed vegetables.
Health benefits: Cinnamon blocks inflammation and bacterial growth, as well as helps to regulate blood sugar.
Nutritional benefits: Cinnamon is a source of calcium, manganese, dietary fibre, and iron. It helps to increase digestive fluid secretion and relieve intestinal gas. This spice counteracts congestion and aids blood circulation, and its aroma relieves tension and helps steady the nerves
How to use it: Sprinkle cinnamon on toast with honey, add it to warm rice milk with honey or to water when cooking quinoa, or add it to black beans for burritos or nachos.
Golden Vanilla Cinnamon Elixir
• 1-2 cups of longevity tea or other steeped herbal tea
• 2 Tbsp hemp seeds • 1-2 Tbsp honey or coconut nectar
• ½ tsp vanilla bean powder • ½ tsp lacuma
• ½ tsp Cinnamon powder • ½ tsp turmeric powder
Add gojiberries for a deep orange colour and a boost of antioxidants! Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender until fully combined and pour in one or two mugs and enjoy on a cool fall day!
Simply said, Marni Wasserman’s life is rooted in healthy eating. She is a Culinary Nutritionist, Health Strategist, and founder of Marni Wasserman’s Food Studio & Lifestyle Shop located in midtown Toronto where she teaches her signature cooking classes, and offers collaborative workshops and urban retreats. Marni is the author of Fermenting for Dummies and Plant-Based Diet For Dummies. She has made frequent appearances on TV, and has articles in numerous publications. Marni uses passion and experience to educate individuals on how to adopt a realistic plant-based diet that is both simple and delicious. Visit: <a href="https://marniwasserman.com/">marniwasserman.com</a>, or call: (647) 477-8131