Herbs are one of the most valuable things in an Indian kitchen. Indian cuisine is filled with the aroma and freshness of some very popular ones like coriander, mint, basil, curry leaves etc. Each and every herb has a unique fragrance, the citric taste of coriander, a splash of refreshment from mint, the woodsy kick of rosemary, these herbs have the power to turn an ordinary dish into extraordinary! In fact, in most of our treasured recipes including our traditional delicacies that are prepared in the authentic ancestral methods, herbs play quite an imperative role. After spices, these are considered to be the building blocks or the foundation of Indian cuisine. A simple dal can turn magical when freshly chopped coriander is sprinkled on the top, a basic meal can be amped up with some fresh mint chutney, you can boost the health quotient in your dish with a handful of curry leaves and there's a lot more. In short, the magical abilities of herbs are endless and it doesn’t end here. Herbs have tons of nutritional value packed in them along with being rich in flavours. Also, even though we buy herbs from our go-to grocery stores, growing them is a piece of cake. Trust me when I say, growing herbs in your house and making your own tiny herb garden at home is easier and fun too! Today, let’s get acquainted with some herb-y facts!
Let’s start with this magical wand! Coriander or popularly known as dhaniya can magically turn a sabzi, dal, or any simple dish into a delicious delicacy just by its presence. Anything that is cooked in an Indian household is incomplete if it doesn’t have this versatile herb to season or garnish it! This is one of the most widely used herbs not only in India but all around the world. Though coriander has a nutty and citric flavour, it goes well with almost all the savoury dishes in the country. This magical herb has its origins in Italy and is also good for your health in numerous ways like healing your body, protecting your skin, heart, and brain, preventing infections, and whatnot!
Fun Fact: The name of this herb comes from a Stink Bug! Ancient people associated coriander with a badly stinky bug because of its strong citrus smell, the same aroma which we all love!
This herb is ‘mint’ to be in your kitchen! From a summer refreshment beverage to chutneys, pulaos, even chocolates, mint indeed has a unique and refreshing aroma and gives a relaxing and rejuvenating flavour. This widely distributed herb around the world is considered to be a symbolism of hospitality and there are over 600 types of mint around us. This is one herb that helps with your bad breath and also relieves indigestion problems!
Fun Fact: Mint was majorly used as a scent during the ancient Hebrew period. Who wants a brand new mint-y perfume?
3. Curry Leaves
Kadi patta is good for hair, skin, eyes, and literally everything. The list is quite big and so is our love for curry leaves. This herb is considered to be the baby of India and Sri Lanka as it’s mostly grown in these regions. Though it smells pungent and tastes bitter-ish, Indian tadka is just so incomplete without curry leaves, especially in South India. So, when in South, no one can say no to curry leaves while enjoying South-Indian food.
You know what? Curry leaves are banned in the U.S because America considers curry leaves as harbor pests associated with citrus diseases, so no one is permissible to carry curry leaves! Sad for them, more for us! :P
*Drum rolls* for the King of Herbs! Basil in the Greek language means “king ''. A very mild and sweet flavour of this herb has an enchantment that it can add to every dish it goes inside. This has an origin in India and more than 12+ varieties are used in the culinary world. Basil has a very interesting fragrance that can resemble lemon, cinnamon, clove, basically like a medley of these spices. Controlling blood pressure, carrying powerful antioxidants in the body, and being rich in antibacterial properties are some of the best qualities of this herb!
Did you know? Under British rule in India, Hindus were allowed to swear on holy basil instead of the bible in court as Hindus relate holy basil to the Goddess Lakshmi.
Lemongrass can be widely seen all over the world now but has a huge bond with Sri Lanka and Southern India. In an Indian household, lemongrass is widely used in tea but, as we all know, lemongrass plays a great and vital role in curries, rice, seasoning of meat and what not! This citrus-scented herb offers great relief in anxiety, helps in lowering cholesterol, relieving pain, helps in relieving bloating and many other benefits!
Fun fact: Lemongrass can and are used as mosquito repellents as they dislike the smell of Cymbopogon.
This herb has a wood-ish smell and bitterly citric taste to it. Coming from the dry rocky Mediterranean area, it’s extremely popular in Italy and the South of France. It is a great mood elevator and a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds! This aromatic herb plays a pivotal role in stuffing and dressing delicacies in the culinary sector. Even though we Indians add it to our dishes once in a while, it is a herb worth mentioning!
Other usages: You can obtain whitish honey from Rosemary, and all the vegans out there love this honey!
I hope you got the really fabulous and virtual flavour of herbs by reading this article. You can also check,”5 easiest herbs to grow in your kitchen garden” to get started on your home herb garden!
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.