Herbs grow lush and abundant almost everywhere. Left to their own devices they will happily run rampant up to the garden fence and beyond. Yet they are allocated the stingiest applications in cooking – a sprig of parsley on the potatoes, a little chopped mint in the peas or a few leaves of basil on the spaghetti. Herbs grow in abundance because they are meant to be used that way. While the usual culinary wisdom is to timidly add them to cooked dishes, the best way to enjoy their fresh flavors and health-giving properties is raw, using them as abundantly as they grow.
Everyday herbs like parsley, chives, mint, cilantro and basil, herbs you know and hopefully love, make stunning salads. Hold the bunches of herbs by the stems and chop the leaves roughly. Toss the chopped leaves into a bowl and mix them all together. The fragrance will be glorious – this not a garnish, it’s the real thing. You can eat it just as it is, or toss a dressing over it and add other salad ingredients. Prepare for a taste shock – this anything but bland lettuce and tomatoes.
For a bigger salad that is more of a meal, add some Lebanese cucumber, cherry tomatoes, snow peas and radish. Cubes of avocado will add a creamy finish so you won’t even need a dressing. Serve it with ceviche, fish ‘cooked’ by sprinkling it with freshly squeezed lime juice.
Another way to serve herb salad is with lobster, mayo and fresh crusty bread rolls. This makes a great summer lunch for a friendly get-together and the fresh herbs add punch to the basic lobster roll. The gentler aromatic herbs like Italian parsley and chives will not overpower the lobster. But don’t just stop at familiar herbs. Explore the many varieties of basil like dark opal and Thai, and the vast range of mints – pineapple, chocolate, apple, lemon and spicy ginger mint. Lemon balm and lemon verbena are not just for tea, these herbs will add sweetness and delicate flavor to your salads.
Green smoothies can also take on a fresh burst of flavor with handfuls of herbs tossed in the blender. A blend of mint, watermelon and a squeeze of lime blitzed with ice cubes will cool you down on the hottest day. Make your favourite herb tea and cool it in the fridge for iced tea or freeze it in ice pop moulds for a refreshing and healthy treat.
The more you use fresh herbs, the more you experiment by mixing them with your favorite fruits and vegetables, the more new taste sensations you will enjoy!