Aromatic herbs are among those indispensable ingredients in our cuisine.
In addition to flavoring and giving a special touch to all recipes, herbs are very useful for a healthy and genuine cuisine, because, which many underestimate, are rich in many nutrients, vitamins and minerals and essential oils beneficial to the body.
Aromatic herbs have always been, since ancient times, excellent substitutes for salt, along with spices. But while spices come from the Far East and are used dried, aromatic herbs are native to the Mediterranean areas and their fresh use makes it very easy to grow them even at home.
For this reason aromatic herbs should always be present in our house.
If you have a vegetable garden, growing herbs can be used not only to collect ingredients for cooking tasty dishes, but also because, in association with other crops, enrich the soil with nutrients that improve the quality of your vegetables and defend the plants in a natural way, keeping away harmful insects without having to resort to pesticides.
But they can also be grown in pots in the kitchen or in small domestic gardens, giving great satisfaction and a pleasant decorative effect.
Cultivation of Aromatic Herbs
Before you start growing herbs, you should know that there are two types of herbs.
Perennial aromatic plants are those that are not afraid of winter and remain evergreen and, therefore, once planted they are maintained from year to year with little care. Examples of this are sage, thyme and rosemary, but also mint and chives which, although they seem to dry up in the cold, are actually reborn in spring.
The annual aromatic plants, on the contrary, are to be re-seededed every year, because they die after their life cycle and do not resist to the winter. These include basil and parsley.
Aromatic herbs are very rustic plants, formed by small shrubs or bushes and need very little care.
They want to be placed in a sunny place, with a specific soil and you should never exaggerate with watering to encourage the maximum accumulation of essential oils in the leaves.
The newly planted ones need more water, then wait for the drying of the soil before irrigating again. A more abundant watering may be necessary also in case of particularly hot summer, but, in general, to the specimens cultivated in open field, the natural precipitations are sufficient.
If you choose to grow your herbs in pots, avoid very dark pots, because they encourage overheating of the roots if the plant has direct exposure to sunlight.
In winter, shelter from frost plants grown outdoors with a state of mulching or even with protective sheets of non-woven fabric or nylon, open at the top to prevent condensation. Move the plants cultivated in pots from the positions exposed to the cold winds and, in order to avoid radical rottenness, drastically reduce the watering, intervening only when the plants have the soil very dry, in the less cold days, wetting little and in the morning.
List of the Best Known Aromatic Herbs
We have chosen the ten best known and most used aromatic herbs in the kitchen.
Let’s start with parsley, certainly the most versatile aromatic herb used in cooking and, in fact, it is said “to be like parsley”.
It can be used practically to flavor everything: vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, legumes, especially chickpeas and, together with basil, it is an excellent addition to homemade pesto.
It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, E, K and J, amino acids and flavonoids and, for this reason, used raw is an excellent diuretic, helps the digestion and elimination of intestinal gases, and relieves pain related to the menstrual cycle.
Basil is one of the basic aromatic herbs of Mediterranean cuisine.
It goes perfectly with tomatoes, both cooked in sauces and raw, in fresh capresi with mozzarella. It is the main ingredient of pesto, it flavors rice salads, but its strong flavor is suitable to accompany all summer vegetables. The latest culinary trends see it also in combination with fruit, in fruit salads of strawberries or berries and is also used for an excellent panna cotta.
It is rich in essential oils, which not only give it its unmistakable aroma, but also give it digestive, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Mint is an aromatic herb perfect for giving a touch of freshness to dishes and drinks.
It is an excellent salad dressing, a good accompaniment to sweet vegetables such as carrots, courgettes and potatoes, gives character to fruit salads and is a classic summer drink. The combination with chocolate in ice creams and desserts is also inviting.
In addition to its thirst-quenching capacity, it is an excellent digestive.
Oregano is an excellent aromatic herb to be used fresh or dried.
Unmissable on Neapolitan pizza or in pizzaiola sauces, it also goes well with soups, fish and white meats. Combined with legumes, it flavours and prevents possible fermentation linked to the consumption of these foods.
Rosemary is an aromatic herb that is widely used especially in combination with baked potatoes.
But in reality it also goes perfectly with roasts, velvety meats, soups, seasonal soups and legumes, especially chickpeas.
It is a general detoxifier, rich in iron, has analgesic properties, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and expectorant, also stimulates the liver, helps digestion and regulates the pressure.
Sage is an aromatic herb that goes well with butter, and not for nothing this combination is often used to season pasta, gnocchi or tortelli.
In reality it is very versatile and can be enjoyed fried, in roasts, on skewers or saltimbocca alla romana and also with legumes and cooked fruit.
It is a plant known since ancient times for its therapeutic virtues and, in fact, its name comes from the Latin “save”, or be in good health.
It has anti-inflammatory, balsamic, expectorant and digestive properties, it combats rheumatism and water retention and is a natural estrogen that relieves migraines, menstrual syndromes and some disorders related to menopause. It is useful for treating gingivitis and abscesses and, for this reason, we often find it in the composition of toothpastes, and is an excellent whitener if we use the fresh leaf directly on the teeth.
Its use is contraindicated for those who have nervous disorders, in pregnant women and during breastfeeding.
Thyme is an aromatic herb widely used in cooking to flavour everything from meat to fish and vegetables, and also fruit salads, but, above all, it helps to make beans more digestible.
It has a high content of calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and especially thymol, an active ingredient that gives it antiseptic, purifying, antispasmodic, digestive and balsamic properties. Infusions or gargles help in case of coughs, flu, colds, bronchitis, asthma, tonsillitis and hoarseness, while herbal teas relieve headaches and can be used as digestive.
Marjoram is also an aromatic herb that can flavour many dishes, according to everyone’s taste and imagination.
Excellent in Mediterranean meat dishes, with sauces or to enrich already tasty dishes, marjoram finds its best use in the preparation of preserves and liqueurs.
Laurel is an aromatic herb that goes well with fried foods, but also in velvety or in combination with spices such as turmeric or curry.
When added to legumes, it helps to make them more digestible and avoids possible abdominal swelling.
Chives are an aromatic herb that belongs to the same family of garlic and onion, but have a more delicate taste and, for this reason, can be a more delicate and digestible alternative to all those dishes that require raw onion.
Perfect in velvety, soups and risottos, it also goes well with salads, potatoes, fresh cheeses or eggs, and is widely used to flavor mayonnaise in vegan version.
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Miracle-Gro: AeroGarden LED Cultivator with Seed Kit for Aromatic Herbs
The all-year-round garden; grow fresh herbs, vegetables, salads, flowers and more in your smart indoor garden
Cultivates up to 3 different plants at the same time; plants grow in the arqua, not in the soil; advanced hydroponics within everyone’s reach
The 10 watt high performance lighting system is tuned to the full spectrum or to achieve rapid natural growth and abundant yields
Easy-to-use control panel that automatically turns lights on and off and alerts you when nutrients need to be added Includes a seed kit with 3 aromatic herb pods containing: Genoese basil, curly parsley and dill, as well as patented nutrients.