Growing your own herbs for healthy salads is very satisfying. You can grow herbs anywhere: your garden, allotment, greenhouse, or a window box, so make the most of it. It is better to pick fresh herbs for salads to be at their tastiest. However, if you really have no space, or don’t have time to grow your own herbs, you can probably find them fresh at your local farmers’ market.
So which herbs for salads are easy to grow?
Salads regularly contain leafy plants like lettuce, which has many varieties, but you can also add other leafy herbs – or herb leaves to your mixed salad leaf bowl or a vegetable salad.
So, here we go! 🙂
Parsley or garden parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. In central Europe, eastern Europe and southern Europe, as well as and in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
In southern and central Europe, parsley is part of bouquet garni, a bundle of fresh herbs used as an ingredient in stocks, soups, and sauces. Freshly chopped green parsley is used as a topping for soups such as chicken soup, green salads, or salads such as salade Olivier, and on open sandwiches with cold cuts or pâtés.
Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley in French cuisine.
Parsley is the main ingredient in Italian salsa verde, which is a mixed condiment of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic, and sometimes bread soaked in vinegar.
In Brazil, freshly chopped parsley (salsa) and freshly chopped scallion (cebolinha) are the main ingredients in the herb seasoning called cheiro-verde, literally “green aroma”, which is used as key seasoning for major Brazilian dishes, including meat, chicken, fish, rice, beans, stews, soups, vegetables, salads, condiments, sauces, and stocks.
Parsley is a key ingredient in several Middle Eastern salads such as Lebanese tabbouleh.
The two main groups of parsley used as herbs are curly leaf (Petroselinum crispum, crispum group) and Italian, or flat leaf (Petroselinum crispum, neapolitanum group). The neapolitanum group more closely resembles the natural wild species. Flat-leaved parsley is preferred by some gardeners as it is easier to cultivate, being more tolerant of both rain and sunshine, and is said to have a stronger flavor, while curly leaf parsley is preferred by others because of its more decorative appearance in garnishing. A third type, sometimes grown in southern Italy, has thick leaf stems resembling celery.
Seems, the younger parsley leaves have less flavour.
You can even sow some parsley seeds in August, and this will give you a crop to use overwinter, as this herb is tolerant of lower temperatures.
How to keep your parsley fresh? Fresh parsley should be stored inside the refrigerator packed in a zip pouch or wrapped in slightly dampen paper towel. Dried leaves can keep well for few months when stored in a tightly sealed glass container and placed in cool, dark and dry place. You can also freeze parsley. Just clean, chop and let dry; then put in little baggies and seal.
But keep it in mind that excessive consumption of parsley should be avoided by pregnant women.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum), or the King of herbs, is considered one of the healthiest herbs and extensively used in culinary. (You can read more about this wonderful plant in the article Basil Or The King Of Herbs: Growing Tips, Culinary Uses, Health Info). Basil is prominently featured in Italian cuisine (it is the essential element in pesto), and also plays a major role in Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste differently. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are “Genovese”, “Purple Ruffles”, “Mammoth”, “Cinnamon”, “Lemon”, “Globe”, and “African Blue”.
The leaves are the main part of the plant and are the best to be used in fresh salads. Although pinching back the flowers will encourage more leaf growth, the creamy-white flowers are edible. Small stems are ok, but better don’t use thicker stems and stalks as they tend to be bitter (stems and large veins also may cause pesto to turn brown and dark).
Basil is most commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor.
Basil is the ultimate complement to tomatoes, and also pairs beautifully with onions, garlic, and olives. You probably know that a drizzle of balsamic vinegar over basil leaves makes a delicious combination.
Most other herbs tend to overpower basil’s flavor and aroma, but oregano is one that is most often used together with basil. Other good combinations include summer savory, rosemary, and sage.
But if you do one thing this summer with your basil stash, try infusing it into your next cocktail. You truly can’t go wrong with a batch of Strawberry-Basil Margaritas; they’re a guaranteed party win. 🙂
How to keep the basil fresh? Just trim the stems and place them in a glass of water, just like cut flowers. Loosely cover it with a plastic bag and leave it on the counter. Although certain herbs, such as parsley and cilantro, can be stored this way in the fridge, basil does better at room temperature.
Dill or Anethum graveolens is another great herb to use in salads. It is used together with, or instead of other green herbs, like parsley, chives and basil. It is also often paired up with chives when used in food.
Fresh and dried dill leaves (sometimes called “dill weed” to distinguish it from dill seed) are widely used as herbs in Europe and central Asia. In central and eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Ukraine, Russia and Finland, dill is a popular culinary herb used in the kitchen along with chives or parsley.
The fernlike leaves of dill are aromatic and are used in salads and to flavor many foods such as gravlax (cured salmon) and other fish dishes, borscht and other soups, as well as pickles (where the dill flower is sometimes used). Dill is best when used fresh as it loses its flavor rapidly if dried; however, freeze-dried dill leaves retain their flavor relatively well for a few months.
Fresh dill leaves are used all year round as an ingredient in salads, for example, one made of lettuce, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, the way basil leaves are used in Italy and Greece.
In Poland, fresh dill leaves mixed with sour cream are the basis for dressings. It is especially popular to use this kind of sauce with freshly cut cucumbers, which practically are wholly immersed in the sauce, making a salad called “mizeria”.
In Laos and parts of northern Thailand, dill is known in English as Lao coriander and served as a side with salad yum or papaya salad.
Dill seed, having a flavor similar to caraway but also resembling that of fresh or dried dill weed, is used as a spice.
Dill is an easy growing herb, but it requires warm to hot summers with high sunshine levels; even partial shade will reduce the yield substantially. It also prefers rich, well drained soil. The seeds sprout quickly and can be sown directly because they don’t like being transplanted.
How to store fresh dill? Wrap the herb in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can also freeze fresh dill: wash, trim and chop the dill, allow to dry thoroughly, and then place in heavy-duty freezer bags or freeze in ice cube trays with a small amount of water, then transfer to freezer bags.
Spinach, Dill, and Strawberry Salad recipe:
2 pounds fresh spinach
1 bunch green onions, chopped
½ cup toasted, slivered almonds
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 cloves minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon onion powder (Read more on foodfacts.mercola.com)
At least two hours before serving, whisk the oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, dry mustard, and onion powder until blended, and then cover and chill.
In a large salad bowl, toss the spinach, green onions, almonds, strawberries, and dill. Just before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss.
Salad Rocket or Rucola (Roquette, Arugula)
There are the obvious herbs such as Salad Rocket (Eruca sativa), also known as Rucola, Rucoli, Rugula, Colewort, Roquette, and Arugula, which is now a common addition to the salads with its peppery leaves. Though, Salad rocket should not be confused with Sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis), which is grown for its sweetly scented flowers. It is also sometimes conflated with Diplotaxis tenuifolia, known as perennial Wall rocket, another plant of the Brassicaceae family that is used in the same manner.
Salad Rocket is native to the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal in the west to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey in the east. Other common names include garden rocket, or more simply rocket (British, Australian, South African, Irish and New Zealand English), and eruca.
A pungent, leafy green vegetable resembling a longer-leaved and open lettuce, Eruca sativa is rich in vitamin C and potassium. In addition to the leaves, the flowers, young seed pods and mature seeds are all edible.
Grown as an edible herb in the Mediterranean area since Roman times, Rucola was mentioned by various classical authors as an aphrodisiac. In Eastern Saudi Arabia it is widely believed the plant has a lot of health benefits and recommended for newlywed couples.
Rucola is very good with salad, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. In Brazil, where its use is widespread, rocket is eaten raw in salads. A popular combination is rocket mixed with mozzarella cheese (normally made out of buffalo milk) and sun-dried tomatoes.
In many countries, this herb is used raw in the salads mixed with other vegetables or alone. In Egypt, the plant is commonly eaten raw as a side dish with many meals. In Turkey, similarly, the rocket is eaten raw as a side dish / salad with fish, but is additionally with a sauce of extra virgin olive oil and a lemon juice.
Growing arugula from seed is easy either in your garden or in a pot on your balcony. It is a cool-season annual, so it is good in spring or fall. Plant arugula in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. The herb likes a lot of moisture so water it frequently. Like any herb or vegetable that needs to grow green leaves, arugula will benefit from compost and/or fertilizer. Mild frost conditions stymie the plant’s growth and turn the green leaves red.
How to store Rucola (Roquette) to keep it fresh? Wash the herb, dry it well (spin it as dry as possible in a salad spinner). Place leaves between paper towels. You can take a long strip of paper and spread the arugula in a single layer on the toweling. After, roll it up, but not to tightly, and put the roll into a zip storage bag with the top open. Store in the crisper drawer of the fridge. The arugula should be good for at least a week.
Sorrel or Rumex acetosa, also known as a Common sorrel or Garden sorrel is another fairly familiar herb to many, even though it is not the most common of greens to find laying around most kitchens. Sorrel isn’t something you’ll find readily in supermarkets, but you will find sorrel sold in the farmer’s markets. (Note: in French, sorrel is oseille, and it’s a classic slang word for money 🙂
Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock. It is a common plant in grassland habitats and is cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable (pot herb).
The raw young leaves add a lemony tang to salads, just as the more mature leaves add flavor to soups and casseroles. The distinctive sour taste of sorrel is due to oxalic acid, which is also present in black tea and spinach. Older sorrel leaves have a higher oxalic acid content, so they will be better for cooking than eating raw.
Sorrel leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavour that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries.
It is also used in stews usually in addition to spinach. For example, in Romania, wild or garden sorrel is used to make sour soups, stewed with spinach, added fresh to lettuce and spinach in salads or over open sandwiches.
In Russia and Ukraine it is called shchavel and is used to make soup called green borscht. In Croatia and Bulgaria is used for soups or with mashed potatoes, or as part of a traditional dish containing eel and other green herbs. In rural Greece it is used with spinach, leeks, and chard in spanakopita.
So, in general, just add fresh Sorrel leaves to mixed-leaf and herb salads, or add to chard and spinach anywhere you would use those.
Best pairings for sorrel recipes:
Sorrel + fish (especially fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel)
Sorrel + shellfish (especially scallops)
Sorrel + cream or butter
Sorrel + bacon
Sorrel + potatoes
Sorrel + rice
Sorrel + lentils
Sorrel + celeriac
Sorrel + leafy greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale)
Sorrel + eggs
Sorrel + chicken or veal
Sorrel + mustard
Sorrel + goat cheese
There are a couple of sorrel species commonly cultivated – Rumex acetosa (common, or “garden” sorrel) and Rumex scutatus (French or “round-leafed” sorrel). Both are perennials (means it comes back year after year) in the rhubarb and buckwheat (Polygonaceae) family. Sorrel also grows wild in parts of Europe, where it is still foraged. Wood sorrel, which looks a lot like shamrocks, an unrelated species, is also foraged and eaten wild. Cultivated sorrel (common and French) is alternately referred to as both an herb and as a vegetable – because it has a fairly strong flavor, it is frequently used relatively sparingly in recipes (like an herb), although some dig it raw in salads (like a vegetable).
Sorrel is a super easy plant to grow – if you have a hard time finding it where you live, consider growing it in a window box, pot or small spot in your garden. It can be planted by seed or propagated by cuttings or plant division.
But remember, people with arthritis or kidney stones should eat minimal amounts of sorrel because the high oxalic acid content can worsen those conditions.
White Peach & Sorrel Salad Recipe
2 cups of loosely packed, washed and dried in a salad spinner sorrel leaves
1 1/2 cups ripe white peaches. Cleaned, sliced
4 T honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Wash sorrel leaves and dry them in a salad spinner.
2. Assemble torn up sorrel leaves and sliced peaches in a bowl.
3. Whisk together honey, grapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar and vanilla in bowl.
4. Pour the dressing over the salad.
Serves 2-3 (Read more at whiteonricecouple.com)
If you’re not used to some of these herbs and leafy vegetables, just try to add them in small amounts, gradually adding different herbs to blend the flavors together. Also remember that your salad dressing can affect the taste of the herb. So, you better try herbs for salads without dressing for a first bite or two, and then add salad dressing slowly to taste.
Try to add less complex seasonings as the aromatic leaves themselves add much to the taste experience.
Source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsley, wikipedia.org/wiki/Dill, wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruca_sativa, wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorrel
Parsley, Dill, Basil photos: pixabay.com
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