Ntwenhle Gcabashe shares the seven must-have herbs for your kitchen.
Picture: Andrea Caldwell
1. Mint is tender and has a strong flavour. When cooking with fresh mint, always add it last to maintain its flavour and texture. Best used in lamb dishes and soups, as well as in raw food such as salads and desserts. When buying fresh leaves, make sure that they are light green with no blemishes. Mint leaves contain a natural fragrant called menthol – it helps relieve a sore throat and breaks up mucus when congested.
2. Parsley is the most popular herb around. Its spicy and peppery flavour enhances the taste of food, even without adding salt. It also provides additional nutrients such as vitamin C. Best used in chicken and potato dishes, salads and eggs. Parsley can be found throughout the year, and at any supermarket.
3. Oregano is a bushy herb commonly used in Italian dishes. It has a slightly bittersweet taste. Best used in pizza, eggs, fish, chicken dishes and sauces. Oregano is also known to improve your digestion and increase energy levels.
4. Basil is a bushy herb, and has a strong smell and flavour. When cooking, it’s recommended that you add it last because when cooked for long, it loses its flavour texture. When buying fresh leaves, ensure that they don’t have dark spots or bruises. Basil is an excellent source of iron – that helps red blood cells to transport oxygen to all parts of the body. Best used when cooking vegetables, tomato dishes, stews and soups.
5. Rosemary has a slightly mint and pine-like flavour. Rich in vitamin A, you can use it in many ways. This includes as flavour on your tea, in oil and also burn it as incense. It goes well with roast chicken, pork, as stuffing and baked potatoes while its branches can replace skewers when grilling or braaing.
6. Thyme has a mild and sharp flavour. Use it to add more flavour to your tea, cheese and alcoholic drinks. It is best used in eggs, beans, vegetables dishes and fish. Fresh thyme is available throughout the year, and at any supermarket. When buying it, make sure that the leaves are bright green with no dark spots.
7. Sage is a member of the mint family, and is closely related to rosemary. It has a soft and sweet to savoury flavour. It is best used in eggs, cheese and fish dishes. It can also be an excellent remedy to prevent a throat infection. To store sage, just wrap it in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate.