THE GROWING DEMAND FOR CULINARY HERBS
THE CONTINUOUS FUSION of Western and Asian culinary arts and innovations have made the use of herbs popular in Filipino cooking, which now features a vibrant assortment of herbs and spices from all over the world. Many of our most popular dishes have come to blend our own tropical ingredients with flavors from Europe and the Americas, China, Thailand, and the Middle East, to cater to our changing food preferences. Herbs are leaves and sometimes stems of a group of aromatic, non-woody plants used in cooking and also for medicinal purposes. Fresh herbs enhance the flavor of soups, salads, and main dishes without the ill effects on the body of the excessive use of salt, soy sauce, patis (fish sauce) or bagoong (fermented shrimp). Food simply tastes better with herbs, especially when the herbs used are fresh.
Individual or mixed herbs impart an aromatic quality to food. The flavor comes from the oil stored in the leaves, which is released when the herb is crushed, chopped, or heated. Particular herbs suit different styles of cooking, and every cuisine has its favorites. Those of the Middle East favor oregano, mint, and dill while Thai cuisine uses much coriander and lemon grass. Italian cuisine favors basil, parsley, and oregano, and the French prefer tarragon, chervil, and fennel. Another reason for the high demand for culinary herbs is because cooks no longer just add simple spices like garlic, onions, tomatoes, and ginger for taste. Herbs have become an essential ingredient for enhancing, complementing, and even defining the flavors of a dish. The judicious use of herbs chopped finely or boiled and used in the broth for specific food preparations elevates cooking to a new level.
Herbs have high concentrations of antioxidants, which have been established to have properties that help in preventing degenerative diseases, including cancers, cardio-vascular diseases, and even diabetes.
The most common herbs in the market are basil, chives, coriander, lemon balm, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme. One can also find dill, chervil, fennel, and lavender.
The “king of herbs” is one of the most recognized, loved, and even revered herbs, considered holy in many cultures around the world. It features prominently in Italian cuisine; the fresh leaves, whole or torn, are used in a Caprese salad, on pizza, and in homemade pesto. A sauce of fresh basil leaves ground with garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil can be spread over hot pasta just before serving. Basil also plays a major role in the cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan in Southeast Asia.
Sweet or Mediterranean basil