Why are natural herbs important?
Why are natural herbs important?
Natural herbs have been central to human civilisation for millennia, playing various roles in our diets, medicine, rituals, and economies. Here's why natural herbs are important in culinary and horticultural terms:
· Herbs often contain essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
· Many herbs also possess anti-inflammatory properties. For instance, turmeric contains curcumin, which has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory effects.
· Herbs add flavour and aroma to dishes without adding extra calories or sodium.
· They can replace artificial flavourings or excessive salt in recipes, leading to healthier culinary options.
· Herbs, like other plants, play vital roles in ecosystems. They can act as ground cover, preventing soil erosion.
· They can attract beneficial insects, promoting biodiversity.
Natural Beauty and Aesthetics:
· Herbs add beauty to gardens, both in terms of their foliage and, in some cases, their flowers.
· They can be used in natural cosmetics and skincare products.
Personal Well-being and Lifestyle:
· Gardening, including growing herbs, can have therapeutic benefits, reducing stress and promoting a sense of well-being.
· Many people find personal satisfaction in growing their own herbs, which fosters a connection to the land and food sources.
· Promoting the use and cultivation of diverse herbs can help preserve plant biodiversity.
· As more herbs are studied and utilised, there's an incentive to conserve their natural habitats and prevent their extinction.
Do fresh herbs make a difference?
Yes, fresh herbs can make a significant difference in various contexts, especially in culinary applications. Here's how:
Flavour and Aroma:
· Fresh herbs generally offer a more vibrant, robust flavour and aroma compared to their dried counterparts.
· The essential oils, which contribute to the aroma and flavour of herbs, are more potent in fresh herbs. Over time, dried herbs can lose their potency and may need to be used in larger quantities to achieve the same flavour.
· Fresh herbs can add texture to dishes. For example, a sprinkle of fresh coriander or basil can add a crunchy or velvety touch to dishes that dried herbs cannot replicate.
· Fresh herbs can add a burst of colour to dishes, enhancing their visual appeal. Dried herbs can often look muted or faded in comparison.
· Some vitamins and phytonutrients degrade with drying and storage. Fresh herbs might retain more of their original nutritional content.
· For instance, herbs like parsley and coriander are rich in vitamin C, which can be diminished in the drying process.
Versatility in Cooking:
· Fresh herbs can be used in a wider range of dishes, including salad garnishes, or in fresh salsas and sauces where dried herbs might not be suitable.
· With fresh herbs, you have a clear idea of their freshness. In contrast, dried herbs can sometimes be stored for extended periods, potentially losing their flavour and potency. There's also a risk of contamination or mould growth if dried herbs aren't stored properly.
· If you grow your own herbs, it can be more economical to use them fresh rather than going through the process of drying and storing them. Plus, you have a continuous fresh supply.
However, it's essential to note that dried herbs also have their place:
1. Convenience: Dried herbs are easy to store and have a longer shelf life, making them convenient for off-season use or when fresh herbs are not readily available.
2. Intensity: In some cases, the drying process can concentrate certain flavours, making dried herbs more potent (though this potency diminishes over time).
3. Certain Dishes: Some recipes may specifically call for dried herbs because of the concentrated flavour or the longer cooking process.
In conclusion, while fresh herbs do make a difference in many aspects, the choice between fresh and dried often depends on the specific application, personal preference, and availability.