By Ruvimbo Jeche
Herbs have a very important role in food preparation. They help a great deal in preparing healthy meals. They not only add unique flavors to our food but contribute color and variety as well. Certain spices and herbs can be used alone or in blends, and can replace or reduce salts and sugars in foods. True power of herbs lie in their wealth of protective polyphenols- a plant compound with potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Polyphenals in herbs help combat diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes among others.
• There are no hard-and-fast rules when cooking with fresh herbs. Use creativity, and experiment in small amounts to see what you like.
• Fresh herbs should be used at room temperature and chopped to release more flavor.
• Extended cooking dulls the flavor of herbs- add fresh herbs to soups or stews just a few minutes before completing the cooking time.
• For refrigerated foods, such as spreads and dressings, add fresh herbs well in advance to allow the flavors to blend. (Though some as basil are an exception.)
• Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh, and powdered herbs are more concentrated than crumbled.
• Each herb is slightly different, but a starting formula is 1/4 teaspoon powdered herbs is equal to ¾–1 teaspoon crumbled, or the equivalent of two to four teaspoons fresh
Like all medicines use herbs with care. They should be taken with much knowledge and precaution. For home-made herbal remedies, they have not been tested or measured by doctors.
• Make sure that you use the correct herb for the illness.
• For serious conditions always see a qualified doctor.
• Do not apply herbal remedies in the eyes, ears, nose or vaginally.
• Do not eat or drink herbal remedies unless you are sure the plant is edible.
• Do not eat or drink large quantities of herbal remedies.
• Avoid taking herbal remedies if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
• Avoid herbal remedies if you are taking other medicines, especially anti-retroviral drugs.
Common culinary herbs in Zimbabwe include rosemary, basil, lavender, nasturtium, oregano, rosemary, rue, sage, chilli, wild basil (zimunhuwenhuwe), amaranth( mowa/mowadanga/imbuya) and zumbane.