Even people with limited space can have a successful herb garden. Fresh herbs are easy to grow and don’t take up much room, and they are packed with nutrition and flavor. They can be grown indoors or out, and are very well suited to growing in pots. Herbs are wonderfully fragrant, inexpensive, simple to maintain, and beautiful. Here’s a great list of plants that will brighten your menu without lightening your wallet.
Parsley is often sidelined as a traditional garnish, a pretty little piece of green that sits on the side of the plate and is thrown away, not eaten. It’s a powerhouse of nutrition usually completely overlooked as a food source. One ounce of parsley has 47% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 62% of what you need in vitamin C, plus a massive dose of vitamin K, folate, iron, and Omega-6 fatty acids…in only 10 calories. Cut fresh parsley off the plant and toss into salads, soups, chilis, sauces, vegetable dishes…almost anything. The mild flavor will enhance your dishes with fresh flavor as well as a nutritional wallop. Note: People with kidney disease should avoid eating a lot of parsley.
Basil is an aromatic herb traditionally used to sweeten Italian and tomato-based dishes and bean dishes. Medicinal purposes include treating digestive problems, like bloating, gas, and stomach upset. Tea made with basil is loaded with antioxidants and antimicrobials, so it soothes sore throats and helps heal injured gums. Add it to salads, soups, and pasta dishes. One ounce of fresh basil has 30% of daily vitamin A, 145% of daily vitamin K, 16% of daily manganese, 20.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, and a whopping 88.5 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Rosemary is a virtually indestructible plant, easy to grow in almost any climate and hard to kill. It’s a strong, pleasant aromatic used in chicken, vegetable, potato dishes and bread. In Elizabethan England, the combination of parsley sage, rosemary and thyme was so popular that a song about unrequited love, Greensleeves, featured the combination and is still a familiar tune today. Rosemary is used to ease cramps and to combat inflammation. One ounce of fresh rosemary has vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, folate, manganese, calcium, 116 mg omega-3 fatty acids and 125 mg omega-6 fatty acids.
Thyme is a savory herb often used in meat and tomato-based dishes. It’s packed with antioxidants and is a strong anti-fungal and antiseptic agent. Tea made by steeping crushed thyme in boiling water is great for soothing a cough. Add fresh leaves to soups, sauces, gravies, roasts, and salads. One ounce of thyme adds dietary fiber, 75% of daily vitamin C, 27% of daily vitamin A, 27% of daily iron, 11% of daily calcium, manganese, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Mint is a powerful medicinal herb to calm queasiness and ease stomach discomfort. Steep with green tea and add a little ginger to make a refreshing feel-better drink that works wonderfully on upset stomach. Sweeten with a little honey for a soothing treat. Add to sweet dishes, yogurt, and drinks. One ounce of mint has vitamin A, iron, manganese, dietary fiber, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Sage is a savory herb used in gravies, meats, soups, and vegetable dishes. It is an effective antibiotic and antiseptic often used to make commercial mouthwash and breath fresheners. Sage tea is reputed to ease menopausal hot flashes. One ounce of sage is loaded with vitamins A, B6 and K, folate, choline, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phytosteroids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Few foods are more healthy than sage.
Herbs aren’t just for flavor enhancement. Add them liberally to your dishes to add tons of whole-food goodness to your menu and reap the delicious benefits of antioxidants, essential oils and fats, vitamins, minerals, sterols, and fiber.
Cindy Johnson is a freelance writer with a new passion for healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. When she’s not writing, Cindy loves to hike in the mountains of North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, son, and a small assortment of dogs. Learn more about the benefits of antioxidants.