Ever since building an herb circle outside the kitchen, I’ve become obsessed with adding raw herbs to my meals. I do so every day, and I’ve even been known, on not so rare occasion, to do it for every meal of the day.

Besides the obvious flavorful attributes, the reasons herbs spin us so is that they are so good for us. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory elements and other hidden wonders — herbs on a regular basis keeps us feeling healthy and energetic. I’ve not had an apple in months, and, even so, I’ve not needed a doctor.

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What I do to keep the herbs cycling through my diet isn’t anything complex. Essentially, I’ve latched on to a few great flavor combinations and simply make sure to utilize them at every opportunity. Here’s the lowdown:

With Fruit

Having mixed fresh fruit every morning is a medicine in itself, but it’s easy to up the ante by being sure to add some freshly chopped mint or basil leaves to the mix. The refreshing zing of these herbs compliments the fruit perfectly, and they are both known for providing a jolt of energy for the morning. It does well to wake me up. (Admittedly, there may also be some coffee in the mix.) Try this Green Strawberry Basil Banana Smoothie.

  • Tip: A sprinkle of ginger powder isn’t a bad idea, either. It has health benefits out the yin-yang.

With Tomato (Anything)

Herb and tomato pairings, of course, starts with sauces — the marinara, Bolognese, salsa, whatever — and goes on from there. Fresh basil and oregano are classic here, as is thyme, the combination of the three found in that fabled Italian Seasoning mix. I usually take the opportunity to throw in some lemongrass, which is stacked with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer goodness, as well as pairs well with tomato. I also like to add my garlic raw, after the cooking is done. Try this Vegan Tempeh Tomato Herb Sandwich.

  • Tip: Tomatoes are actually one of the rare foods that get better for you when cooked. While the Vitamin C might lessen, the lycopene, which is tomatoes’ big plus, strengthens when cooked. So, cook the tomatoes first then add the fresh herbs.

With Pots of Beans

As much as I love the herbs, I’m also a bean fiend. Let no one ever ask me where my protein comes from. And, in cooking all these pots of beans, I’ve learned that the herbs I use can persuade my dishes into different global cuisines. The Italian spices makes for nice, refreshing Italian white beans, whereas I could use oregano and cilantro with the some spicy peppers to get more of chili. Basil, lemongrass, and bay leaf with some coconut milk might switch the flavor to Thai-fusion. Try this Winter Potato, White Bean, and Kale Soup.

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  • Tip: Get a pressure cooker if you do not have one. You can cook dried beans super quickly, saving time and energy while avoiding canned goods.

With Curry

Curry features in quite a few Asian cuisines, from India to Thailand, but choosing the right herbs for each can help make the dish while providing a healthful boost. Cilantro, though mostly associated with Mexican food, fits in nicely in a curry. Basil and lemongrass give a more Southeast Asia feeling, as well as boatload of benefits. Or, if you are feeling it, all three will work just fine together. Try this Vegan Goan “Beef” Curry.

  • Tip: Take the opportunity to add turmeric to this one. For certain ailments, turmeric outperforms many prescription medicines, so it’s not a bad thing to get more of.

With Everything

One of my favorite simple dishes, and one that I often get compliments for, is pasta with raw sauce. More or less, I go out to my herb circle, take what looks good — basil, oregano, lemongrass — and add more healthy stuff ,like raw spinach, garlic, tomatoes, onions, peppers, moringa leaves (good for protein), and other greens. I zap with the food processor and boom. It goes great with pasta, rice, beans, hummus, bread, whatever. Try these Herbs and Spices-Infused Recipes.

  • Tip: This works nicely as a condiment. Make the sauce and serve next to whatever is for dinner. It looks fancy, hulks up the immune system, and tastes fantastic. 

Hey, I never promised rocket science here! These are sweet and simple ways to include fresh herbs in your meals every day. Once you get a feeling for what’s around and once you develop a taste for that powerful raw flavor, it’s an easy thing to love. Now, check out this guide for growing herbs in your kitchen.

Image source: Green Strawberry Basil Banana Smoothie

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