Basil, Cilantro, Oregano and Dill

By Mary Gregoire

Basil, cilantro, oregano and dill. Somehow putting the names of those herbs together does not have the same recognition as Simon and Garfunkel’s “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” but all are wonderful culinary herbs that can be used to enhance our cooking. They provide a way to flavor foods without the addition of salt.

As the spring bulbs and flowering trees are blooming, I also watch my herbs spring to life in my herb garden and think about what new herb I will plant in it this year.

Herbs can be planted in the ground or grown in pots of varying sizes. They need good drainage and regular watering. Some such as chives, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano and parsley are perennials and return each year. Others, such as basil, dill and savory, termed annuals, need to be planted each year. You can start herbs from seeds or buy them as already-started plants in pots from your local greenhouse.

I am particularly fond of using sprigs of rosemary or sage to flavor chicken and pork cooked on the grill and adding basil, oregano and savory to my vegetables and pasta. At the end of the season, the remaining herbs can be dried or frozen and used in cooking throughout the winter.

The American Heart Association encourages us to try to limit our sodium intake to 1500 mg or less a day (about a half teaspoon of salt). Use of culinary herbs for flavoring provides one way to reduce our use of salt as a flavoring for foods.

Take some time this spring to think about how you might increase the use of herbs and decrease the use of sodium in your diet.

Mary Gregoire, PhD RD LDN, is director of Food and Nutrition Services at Rush University Medical Center.

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