Herbs and Foods – Without plants, man could not survive. Cereals Sophisticated grasses fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are essential constituents of the human diet. Some may say the only suitable ones and even the meat we eat comes from animals which themselves fed on vegetation in the shape of grasses and herbaceous plants.
The plant lumped together under the umbrella name of herbs do not appear at first glance to be essential to maintaining life, but it is now becoming apparent that this concept could be wrong, and that herbs are as essential as oxygen, although the ingredients they contribute, such as minerals and vitamins, may only be found in small quantities.
The so-called culinary herbs, parsley, mint, basil, and so on, all have characteristic flavors that enable them to be used in recipes of their own or added to dishes to give a tantalizing piquancy. It is not always realized that often an herb will help with digestion generally or with the digestion of the particular food with which it is associated. Peppermint is a classic aid to food absorption basil contains a substance that helps with stomach cramps and parsley is a diuretic.
The strong flavors of culinary herbs ensure that they should be used in little quantities, but other is no need to go to the other extreme and be timed with them. The Greeks strew their common thyme liberally all over the roasted or kebabed lamb, so it’s a great enhancement, and it is worth applying this principle to all the cooking herbs. The leaves are closely always the part of the plant used, newly picked and freshly chopped at once, or used dried, provided they’re no older than 6 months.
Aromatic herbs are the ones most used in cooking no two are alike and some are so difficult to explain that even to say their cleaving gives the wrong idea. The fact is that several have an aroma and flavor which is rare and unique for instance, basil can only be explained as tasting i.e. basil.
Some are so strongly aromatic as to be spicy, and tarragon, in particular, is one of the few that has such a strong taste it does need adding in minuscule amounts to meat or fish dishes. Bay is another; one leaf is quite potent enough for the average family casserole. Quite why food and diet have become of such interest in recent years is for the social historian to discuss but they are no doubt about the present popularity of culinary herbs.
The history of the use of herbs and foods is naturally bound up with the history of the food itself. It is commonly thought that herbs were used mainly to disguise the flavor of bad meat during the winter when there was no recently slaughtered beef or lamb to be had, or when food, in general, had started to go off. But there were precisely good ways of preserving food without refrigeration, which was followed even more diligently than we do these days in the time of the deep freeze.
Although, herbs have always been used to pep up the more blandly flavored foods i.e. fish, vegetables, and cereals. Interestingly, religion had a considerable influence on herbal use in cookery, since the decreed times when meat should be eaten, when fish only was the rule, and when there were fast days or fasting weeks. Lenten food was particularly plain, and herbs and spices as well were used a great deal in such food.
Looking from the other side, it should be realized that blandly flavored foods decrease the strong and exotic taste of cooking lies in to use of herbs in such quantities that the strength of their flavors balances the strength and flavor of the food to which they’re added. They use to blend as well; it is not good to use herbs and foods whose taste contradicts that of the dish to which it is being added.