From Basil to Marjoram: Essentials of Pantry
By Nmami Agarwal
There is no hiding of the fact that the use of herbs has been incredibly important throughout history. Herbs were initially used for its medicinal properties rather than culinary use. Throughout the decades, the significance of herbs in enhancing the flavour of dishes has risen considerably. From home remedies to changing the whole palate of the recipe, herbs have proven to be extremely useful making it as an essential pantry item. It is strongly recommended to grow and cultivate herbs as it acts like a year-around production of fresh or dried leaves with no hold-backs on nutrition.
Here is a list of indispensable herbs which are a crucial part of pantry along with steps on how to grow and harvest them.
- BASIL (तुलसी) – Basil is a tender leaf used in multiple cuisines around the world. This aromatic herb is used to add an edge to many dishes. Along with its fabulous taste comes gargantuan baggage of health benefits. Basil is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties and helps to adjust the body in a way to fight stress and diseases. It is rich in vitamin A & K. There are an array of different Basil varieties like- sweet basil, Genovese basil, lemon basil and many more. It is best paired with tomato sauces and Thai food. Fresh is the way to go while consuming this herb as it is easy to grow and maintain. It is a must-have pantry staple, so here is a guide on how to best grow basil.
Basil thrives under well-drained soil and sunny environment. It is suggested to plant basil with other plants which require the same amount of water and sunlight for e.g. – tomatoes and parsley. May is the best time of the year to grow this specific herb as it is highly sensitive to the cold environment. This herb is easy to sow and germinates quickly. Planting basil seeds or seedlings, both work fine in propagating the plant. Store it in a jar of water over a counter.
- CHIVES (प्याज की पत्तियां) – Chives are a part of allium parentage which includes scallion, leeks and onions. These are celebrated for pungent smell & flavor and medicinal properties. These bulbous plants leave behind a savory zest to any food it’s blended with. Due to its overpowering flavor, chives are suggested to be used in moderation. Being low in calories but high in beneficial nutrients, chives provide an adequate amount of vitamin A & C. Both, the green scrape of chives and the flowers can be used. Chives are best paired with salad dressings, egg salads and sauces. It is an excellent addition to pantry stock and is easy to cultivate.
Chives prefer the company of full sun and loamy soil. Plant the seeds six inches deep into the soil and provide an abundance of water. Being delicate towards cold weather, plan the whole process two months prior to the last spring frost. Eventually, when the plant blooms, it can be handpicked and stored. Once picked, chives will last a week in the refrigerator. Roll the herbs in a dry paper towel and store it in a loosely sealed container.
- CORIANDER (धनिया) – Coriander is a package of green leaves and nutrients. It is an annual herb consumed as fresh leaves or seeds. Not only is it used as a culinary spice, it is also a food-poisoning preventive agent since ages. The seeds offer not only a unique and intriguing flavor but also a plethora of health benefits. Consumption of coriander treats skin disorders, reduces skin inflammation, lowers harmful cholesterol levels and regulates blood pressure; the perks are endless. Coriander is used in a variety of styles. It pairs wonderfully with Latin food, curries, and gravies and of course, Indian cuisine. Coriander is a part of a plant named cilantro which should definitely be a part of herb section of pantries.
Cilantro nourishes beautifully in full sun exposure and well-drained soil. It grows well in cool spring weather. This plant requires its own space to germinate and an accurate amount of water. Overuse of water could damage the harvest. Do not cut off the flowers right away, let the sapling nourish. Store cilantro in a jar of water of a loosely packed container.
- DILL (सावा) – Talk about multi-useful herbs and dill will definitely make it to the list. The greens are used as fresh herbs while the seeds are used as a spice. Not only that, dill provides a decent amount of nutrients leading to both, mental and physical health. It has a significant amount of vitamin A & C and traces of folate, iron and manganese. Dill promotes digestion, prevents insomnia, maintains bone health and manages diabetes. It has a little bit of sweetness but works well with yogurt sauces, citrus and potatoes. It is also used as key ingredients in home-made pickles, or sometimes as an addition to vegetables and dressings. Here is how dill can be harvested easily.
Dill, just like other herbs mentioned earlier, requires a warm and sunny environment to nourish. Sow the seeds outdoors, in Spring season where adequate sunlight can be obtained by the seeds. These seeds require well-drained soil and need to be sheltered from the wind. Once fully grown, pinch off the leaves and dry it to preserve the flavour and colour. Dill can be frozen up to a year.
- MARJORAM (कुठरा) – Marjoram is a kind of oregano, is a bundle of medicinal properties along with a mild floral profile to it. It is typically used in Mediterranean dishes but can be used in various sauces, stews and meat dishes. This perennial herb improves digestive functions & heart illnesses, has anti-inflammatory and therapeutic effects. Marjoram has a mild, savoury yet, aromatic taste. Filled with vitamin A, C, K & B complex, marjoram is easy to grow at home and yet another great addition to the herbs section of the pantry.
This herb can be grown in any soil and requires minimum watering which reduces the amount of effort to grow a plant. Marjoram should be planted in Springtime or during hot environment due to its sensitivity towards cold weather as it is highly damaging to the seeds. Start planting the seeds just beneath the surface of the soil and once the plant flourishes, pick them rich before the flowers start to open, for the best flavour. To store in the refrigerator, wrap it in a light, damp tea towel and place in an airtight container. Although herbs and spices will not go bad per se, they will definitely lose their potency with age. Most whole herbs and spices will retain their flavour about 1 year, while dried and ground versions are best used within 6 months. Dried herbs should be crushed between the palms of your hands to release their flavour before adding to recipes. As a general rule for most herbs, 1 teaspoon of the dried herb may be substituted for 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh herb.
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