Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kitchen Magic

Although chamomile has a fragrance that immediate pleases the senses just from the slightest whiff, I would say that my favorite herb for tea is mint. Either for cleansing the palate after a meal or making a tea to settle the stomach, calm the nerves or soothe away headaches, a person can always count on that flavor to be bright and refreshing.

Pan named it after one of his favorite nymphs so that he would always be reminded of her whenever he tasted these delicious green leaves. In fact, you can say that mint is one of the world's oldest aphrodisiacs. How so, you ask? Consider that most toothpastes and mouthwashes are some flavor of mint. Why? Because people like to kiss people who taste good.

A couple of other great culinary herbs that also are great healers are rosemary and thyme. Rosemary is a great antibacterial and for this reason is a useful ingredient in salves. In the kitchen, great as a flavoring for vinegar and with so many meats, fish and vegetables, particularly root vegetables. Yet it can also make a great incense or smudge stick. And a great hair rinse too.

Thyme tea is very helpful for upper respiratory ailments. Cooks also know how much flavor it adds to everything from soups to salads, grilled fish and tomatoes. And it also makes a pleasing fragrance burned as an incense. Thyme has tiny leaves, but they are potent and packed with flavor and energy. You've got to admire some of these plants that can thrive in the crevice between rocks.

Another summer favorite that is always in my garden is basil. We all know how delicious it can be in salads, or just with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Yet did you also know that it can make a great tea that aids with digestion? And the leaves can help tame the sting of bug bites when rubbed on fresh.

Try this for a surprisingly interesting and refreshing flavor for a cold tea. Put fresh basil leaves and lemon peels in a pitcher, fill it with water, and let it set overnight in your refrigerator. You will be surprised at the subtle, yet complex and delightful flavor you will have the next day when you are thirsty. Yes, many of the wonderful culinary herbs that we use can also be healers. And they all have a place in the little collection of containers that make up my herb garden.

Go ahead and experiment. See how many wonderful ways there are to make magic with kitchen herbs.

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