In today's busy world, we've forgotten the history of spices and herbs and why they were so important to our ancestors. All we are concerned about is how to make our food taste good. However, we are beginning to rediscover what ancient people knew - spices and herbs are an important ally in our quest for good health.
Thousands of years ago, the Chinese and Egyptians used herbs for their medicinal properties. Herbs were easily grown and gathered so this use continued throughout the Middle Ages. Spices were expensive and were a hot trade item. Eventually wars were fought to control the spice trade.
With the advances in science and medicine, people began to forget the many uses of spices and herbs except as a way to flavor food. If you don't do much cooking, you probably don't use many spices. Not only can spices add greatly to the taste of your food, they can give you a great nutritional boost. Spices and herbs are full of antioxidants and can aid digestion, reduce inflamation and cholesterol, stimulate the production of insulin and protect against stroke. Now I'm not suggesting that you heap extra seasoning on all your food. If you read last week's blog on antioxidants, you know that an excess of antioxidants can have a negative effect. I am merely pointing out that the foods we are supposed to eat work hand in hand to keep us healthier and happier.
Remember too that spices loose their effectiveness quickly so it is probably time to clean out your spice rack. Spices should be stored in a cool, dark place handy to use in cooking. If anything is more than a year old, throw it out and buy a fresh jar. I encourage you to try using fresh herbs whenever possible. I use dried herbs mostly because I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table. But when I have the time, I purchase fresh herbs. This summer I may try to grow my own herbs. I have given up on growing any vegetables though I long for home grown tomatoes. I simply have too much shade. But maybe a few herbs in a pot will survive.........
I hope you are inspired to reach for more than the salt and pepper as you cook. Look for a few recipes that call for fresh herbs and give those a try. I think you'll find the taste worth the effort. And though you may not realize it, you may be a bit healthier.