have long been a favorite in the Mediterranean region. The small, green
herb buds lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads, dressings,
sauces, vegetables and a variety of main dishes.
and garlic chives are an excellent choice for those who want
onion/garlic flavor, but to a milder degree, plus recipes to try.
Cilantro is an herb you either love or hate. Confusion
arises about cilantro, however, because it is called by different names
in different areas, and it is often confused with culantro. One thing is
certain, you do not want to confuse cilantro with parsley! Learn about
cilantro, how to store it, get some cooking tips, and then jump into the
Dill weed dates back 3,000 years and has long been
used in homeopathic remedies for hiccups and gastrinal distress. Dill is
a flavorful addition to seafood, dips, salads, dressings, vegetables,
Make your food not only taste good, but also look
pretty with recipes using edible flowers.
If you are just setting up house, you'll need to keep
some basic herbs and spices on hand to be prepared for any recipe.
You'll also find links to other pantry basics such as condiments,
various food staples, and refrigerator/freezer items to keep stocked in
Most of us are used to standard yellow prepared
mustard, but there are many wonderful varieties of seeds and prepared
mustards to experiment with. Mustard is the second most-used spice in
the USA. Find out why and how to make your own at home.
Oregano became popular in the US due to servicemen
returning from World War II demanding pizza, yet it has always been
popular in the Mediterranean. Learn the difference between common
oregano and it's Spanish, Greek and Mexican counterparts and try some
Rosemary is a versatile, aromatic herb used in a wide
variety of dishes, including fruit salads, soups, vegetables, meats
(especially lamb), fish, eggs, stuffings, dressings and even desserts.
Once prized for its medicinal value, the most popular
use of sage these days is in stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey. Sage
is much too good to bring out only for the holidays. Sage helps digest
grease in fatty foods as an added bonus. Try some interesting old and
new sage recipes.
Tarragon is a bittersweet herb with a hint of licorice
flavor, but too much can overwhelm your recipe. Learn how to cook with
tarragon and try some new recipes.
Thyme is good not only in savory dishes, but also
desserts! Learn history and try some recipes.
Turmeric is often confused with and substituted for
the more expensive saffron, because not only does it have a very strong
flavor, it also turns foods a golden yellow color. Turmeric is
frequently misspelled as tumeric, omitting the first letter r. Learn
about this pungent spice and how to use it in a variety of recipes.
Basil is one of the most widely-used herbs in the
world. With so many varieties to choose from, it's no wonder. From pesto
to spaghetti sauce to dessert treats, basil runs the gamut in the
kitchen. Before trying one of the many basil recipes, learn about
basil's history and legends, the many varieties, how to select and store
basil, and basil cooking tips.
A member of the large mint family, basil is known
botanically as Ocimum basilicum. It has long been used as an embalming
and preserving herb, found in mummies of ancient Egypt. Perhaps because
of its embalming usage, basil was also a symbol of mourning in Greece
where it was known as basilikon phuton, meaning magnificent, royal or
Most likely basil is native to India, but there are
some indications it may have originated even farther east. Ancient
records from 907 A.D. indicate sweet basil in the Hunan region of China.
It migrated westward as whole plants, since it could be grown easily
indoors away from frost exposure. Basil is also known as St. Joseph's
Today, basil is not only used as a food flavoring, but
also in perfumery, incense and herbal holistic remedies.
Capers have long been a favorite in the Mediterranean region. The
small, green herb buds lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads,
dressings, sauces, vegetables and a variety of main dishes.
What are capers?
Capers are the unripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a
prickly, perennial plant which is native to the Mediterranean and some
parts of Asia. Their use dates back to more than 3000 B.C. where they
are mentioned as a food in the Sumerian cuneiform Gilgamesh, an
ancient retelling of a great flood and ark legend. After the buds are
harvested, they are dried in the sun and then pickled in vinegar, brine,
wine or salt. The curing brings out their tangy lemony flavor, much the
same as green olives.
The size of the buds range from tiny (about the size of a baby petite
green pea) up to the size of a small olive. The smallest variety from
the South of France, called nonpareil, is the most prized and
comes with an equally notable price-tag. Larger capers are stronger in
flavor and less aromatic. Much of the expense comes from labor costs
since the caper buds are picked by hand.
A mention of chives will most likely bring to mind a baked potato
with all the trimmings, but there is so much more to this thin, graceful
herb. Chives are easy to grow indoors and out, and are also available
freeze-dried, making them the perfect year-round herb to have on hand.
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), a member of the onion family and
native to Asia and Europe, have been around over 5,000 years. Yet, they
were not actively cultivated until the Middle Ages. The botanical name
is derived from the Greek meaning reed-like leek. The English
name chive comes from the Latin cepa, meaning onion,
which became cive in French. Prized for their flavor, this
smallest member of the onion family has many wild cousins growing
throughout the Northern hemisphere.
Shoots of flavor
Chives grow in clumps like grass, sending up graceful, hollow, thin
leaves up to 12 inches. Unlike regular onions, no large bulb forms
underground. Thus, it is the leaves that are the source of the onion
flavor. A perennial plant, chives are perfect for the home gardener,
even those with brown thumbs. If you grow your own, you will be blessed
in the spring and summer with lovely lavender flowers shaped like a
delicate puffball. These flowers are also edible, and make a strikingly
colorful garnish for any dish. However, be aware that the flavor of
chives becomes more harsh after flowering. To avoid flowering, simply
keep snipping the leaves back.
Also known as Chinese chives, garlic chives (Allium tuberosum),
can be used and stored in the same manner as chives. They are
distinguishable from chives by their flat, broader leaves and fragrant
white flowers, otherwise, they look very similar in appearance. As you
would expect, garlic chives have a delicate garlic flavor and are used
extensively in oriental dishes. Garlic chives are a good choice for
those who shy away from full-flavored garlic.