In summer, we can indulge in fresh ingredients, but it is a shame to use spices in dried form. They are indispensable ingredients in sauces, pestos, vegetable and fish dishes, salads and even juices and smoothies!
Not so long ago, when it came to spices, you could find the following in the average Hungarian kitchen: red pepper, white and black pepper, cumin seeds, marjoram, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, aniseed.
1. Natural insect repellent
Flavours and fragrances (essential oils) that are pleasant to us are not pleasant to all living things. Plants have developed their own specific fragrances for their own protection, to keep away the most important pest of the plant. Many of them also have antibacterial properties (such as oregano, considered nature’s antibiotic ), so it’s good to use them not only for their pleasant taste but also for their beneficial properties. This is why most green herbs can also be used as medicinal herbs.
2. The Mediterranean diet and herbs
A wealth of research confirms the positive health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The moderate consumption of fish and seafood, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil for salads and the daily durum pasta, cheeses and red wine are the main ingredients highlighted, while herbs are not in the spotlight – they are modestly overshadowed by other ingredients.
But the vigorous basil leaves, the velvety sage, the intense Italian scent of oregano, the fresh rosemary and thyme that evoke the Mediterranean summer meadows, all contain a whole host of beneficial micronutrients. As these herbs and spices are almost always used fresh and in abundance in Mediterranean cuisine, there is no doubt that they contribute to the good health of Mediterranean peoples.
3. Praise for raw greens
We have always eaten green herbs as raw, living food, not quite consciously: chives sprinkled on top of Sunday soup, green parsley sprinkled on rice pudding are excellent ways of ‘vitalising’ our food. Fresh, ‘live’ ingredients help to avoid digestive leucocytosis. This is a process that takes place in the body every time we eat cooked food: the immune system does not recognise the denatured food molecules, so the number of white blood cells in the bloodstream increases. However, if you start your meal with a raw meal, such as a salad flavoured with herbs, or if you eat something that has not been cooked, this process does not start, so to speak: you are sparing your body from a blind flu.
4. Chlorophyll, the miracle molecule
Inside the closed ring of the organic chlorophyll molecule, like the emerald in a gold socket, is inorganic, elemental magnesium, known as a chelate bond. In the chelate bond, the inorganic mineral is always bound by an organic molecule so that it can be used by the animal (and human) body.
If we replace the central atom of the chlorophyll molecule with iron, we obtain, with a little exaggeration, the haemoglobin of our blood, which transports oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood, and is, to put it simply, the carrier of life. It’s not difficult to put together that if our diet is rich in chlorophyll and contains iron, our body can produce the haemoglobin molecule very easily. It is an extremely powerful antioxidant, and for this reason alone it is usually worth eating all kinds of green vegetables, including green spices.
5. A storehouse of vitamins
Green leafy vegetables, including herbs, are a rich source of vitamin C. As they are heat-degradable vitamins, it is wise to add some of the fresh herbs to the dish after cooking – especially as most herbs lose much of their intense flavour when cooked. In addition, a sprig of fresh basil or a sprig of parsley is a good garnish. These are usually left politely on the side of the plate in the restaurant, but would be better eaten as part of the meal.
6. Pleasant breath
A few leaves of mint, lemongrass, sage and parsley are also worth nibbling on their own for fresh breath, especially after a nice garlic lunch. The essential oils they contain not only make for pleasant breath, but also help to reduce the number of bacteria that cause tooth decay because of their antibacterial properties.