Using fresh spring herbs rather than dried or processed seasonings is a simple way to add nutrient density to daily meals. Fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, chives and rosemary are abundant at local farmers markets in spring, and they are also easy to plant in a garden or outdoor pots and hanging planters. Consumption of fresh spring herbs has health benefits far beyond simply adding flavor to food.
CILANTRO: Cilantro is packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. It is a great source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese. Cilantro is rich in antioxidants that are effective at fighting free radicals.
PARSLEY: Parsley is high in vitamins C and A, which are known to strengthen the body’s immune system. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen, the main structural protein found in connective tissue. This nutrient will also aid in the body’s ability to repair wounds and maintain healthy bones and teeth.
OREGANO AND THYME: Oregano and thyme are fiber dense. Fiber increases the bulk of stool and stimulates peristaltic motion, which moves food through the digestive tract efficiently. Eating fiber-rich plants al-lows the food you consume to detox the body.
BASIL: The George Mateljan Foundation found that basil is a great source of vitamin A because it is high in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which protects against free radical damage in epithelial cells and prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol.
CHIVES: The most essential nutrient in chives is folic acid, which is an import-ant mineral, especially for pregnant women. It helps prevent neural tube defects in newborns. Additionally, chives have diuretic proper-ties that stimulate urination, helping the body clear out toxic dietary substances. ROSEMARY: The Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre in the U.K. found that having higher blood levels of one of rosemary’s main chemical compounds is linked to better cognitive performance.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 clove fresh garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds
1/8 cup cold pressed
1/8 cup cold pressed olive oil
Blend all ingredients on high in a food processor until smooth.
* Serve over fresh sliced tomatoes for a simple hors d’oeuvre, or spread inside a panini with tomatoes and spring veggies.
* Divide pesto into small glass containers and freeze for future use.