Up until the middle 18th century to the early 19th century, a handful of herbs were largely exclusive to the nation of Italy. The relative geological exclusivity of these herbs gave Italian cuisine, (with the aid of a wonderfully creative culture), the distinctive succulent, savory, and rich character that people around the world enjoy today. These herbs are Basil, Garlic, Oregano, and Rosemary.
Another interesting fact about these herbs is that on top of being potent flavor enhancers, they are also in the group popularly known as “superfoods,” foods so high in nutrient content that they are considered by nutritionists and other health professionals to have the ability to prevent a range of illnesses and improve overall health.
The most widely used of the four Italian herbs, Basil is a staple in kitchens around the world today. Many of the dishes made with this herb also contain tomato or tomato sauces and products. It is the perfect foil to naturally acidic vegetable flavors like zucchini and peppers. It is common in soups, sauces, and marinades. It is also an excellent enhancer for pesto recipes. Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K, which is relatively rare in other foods and is necessary for the binding of calcium within bones.
Widely loved as it is loathed, Garlic is the one herb strong enough to repel the dreaded vampire of Scandinavian lore. Garlic’s potent aroma and flavor make it an excellent herb for use in just about any savory dish. Garlic is also an extraordinarily powerful ‘superfood,’ and is well known for its potent antioxidant qualities. Research has shown that people who eat garlic on a regular basis are significantly less prone to all manner of cancers. Its health-promoting properties are best when eaten uncooked, and it is also the ideal replacement for salt.
Another powerful green herb from Italy, oregano is known as the “ying” to the “yang” of Italian cooking represented by basil. Oregano, like the other herbs on our list, is common in kitchens across America, and the developed world. Oregano is also rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K. It is also a good source of magnesium, iron, folate and more. It has been noted for its ability to kill microbes and could even be used to treat MSRA.
Finally, we come to the sweetheart of our list, Rosemary. Not truly an herb, Rosemary is a shrub- but is no less essential to the heart of Italian cuisine. It is commonly used in landscaping, which makes it especially handy when you need to add flavor to your cooking. Rosemary has been noted for its ability to improve cognitive abilities like memory and attention, and it is an indispensable item on our Italian cooking shopping list.
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