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The benefits of culinary herbs and spices are primarily due to their antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral effects.

Herbs and spices should be used to enhance and balance, not over-power a foods flavor.

Emperor Charlemagne of the 9th Century wrote: “An herb is a friend of physicians and the praise of cooks.”

Of the 9 most popular herbs, 6 of them are from the Family Lamiacea – more commonly known as the Mint Family.

Those six are: Basil, Peppermint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme.

Adding these 6 herbs to your daily diet will in fact be adding a large dose of good health to your life. It will also allow you to reduce salt, fat, and sugars from your foods. These three ingredients are used to give dead and bland foods taste/flavor. When you can put back or draw from the food itself, the natural flavoring, and the need for artificial additions isn’t necessary.

Fresh from your garden is of course the most beneficial method of using herbs. When this isn’t an option, the next best method is fresh dried; this is accomplished by hanging in a clean, cool, and dark place where dust and bugs do not have access. Remove from hanging as soon as they are dry and strip from the stalk, storing in glass or the proper type paper containers until ready for use. Never store in plastic, it will absorb the oils and the herbs will go stale very easily.

The finer the leaf is crushed, the quicker the oils are lost. The oils are the life of the herb.

To test your herbs for life, between your fingers, crush a small amount, if the aroma is strong and pleasant-the herbs are still good for using. If however, the aroma is slight and musty-it’s time to toss and start with fresh.

For stove-top cooking, add herbs the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.

Baking does not destroy the oils as quickly as stove-top heat.

Fresh or dried can be sprinkled into foods just before serving for a very delicious and healthy addition to your dining experience.

There are no hard and fast rules when using herbs and spices……with the exception of a few, they can be crossed used.

So get creative, try different blends, find your own signature flavor and then share it with those around you.

Happy cooking!

Bea Kunz

NOTICE: You may reprint this article by giving credit back to the author and by using it as written.

Brewing the Perfect Cup of Tea

One essential of brewing the perfect cup or pot of tea is to never over infuse.

Black Tea:

Bring the water to a boil, remove from the heat source, add tea, cover and steep for required time. (Five to seven minutes is good for most black tea.)

For a stronger tea-add more leaves instead of brewing a longer amount of time.

At the end of the infusion time, remove the tea leaves to avoid a bitter taste.

Always use loose leaf for a better quality – bags are usually of a lesser quality of leaf.

Always use fresh water; do not use distilled water for making tea, it is flat and the oxygen has been depleted.

Green Tea:

Green teas are not fermented during the processing, allowing the leaves to retain their natural color.

When making Green tea you should bring the water almost to a boil, but not completely. Remove from heat, let stand about two minutes then add tea leaf. Cover and steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

White Tea:

White teas are minimally processed. It is generally only air dried and slightly oxidized.

The highest quality white teas are picked just before the buds are open, while they are still covered with silky white hairs. Hence the name…

White teas should be steeped well below the boiling point for 4 to 5 minutes.

Herbal Tisanes:

Herbal Tisanes do not have black, green, or white tea leaf.

If the two are mixed they become a blend.

The English word “tisane” comes from the Greek word ptisane, a drink made from pearl barley. Tisanes can be made from dried flowers, leaves, seeds, or roots.

Do you know?

All teas originate from one bush, the Camellia sinensis. The difference in tea leaf comes about by the different methods of processing.

Tea is a natural source of amino acids.

Want your tea with less caffeine?

Caffeine is highly water soluble, so it is the first constituent of the leaf to be extracted in the steeping process. 80% or more of the tea’s caffeine content is released within the first 20 to 30 seconds of steeping. Simply discard the first steeping after 30 to 60 seconds and add fresh water and steep again.

Tea was valued for its medicinal qualities long before it became a drink of pleasure.

A few tea tips:

Tea hastens the discharge of nicotine from the body.

Hibiscus tea was favored by the Pharaohs of the ancient Nile Valley. It is known for its health properties. (Lowering blood pressure, cools the body of fever, and it contains no caffeine.)

Always store tea in glass, ceramic or paper containers, never plastic.

Happy growing!

Bea Kunz

NOTICE: You may reprint this article by giving credit back to the author and by using it as written.