Dirty It Up With Herb-Seasoned Condiments

Reader Contribution by Marlene Adelmann
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There are many ways to use herbs in health and healing. As an herbalist, I naturally use a lot of tinctures and teas to address discomforts and ailments (if you have never made a tincture before, you can learn how to here). To a much lesser degree, I use powdered herbs and capsules. Consuming herbs in my diet is perhaps the most enjoyable and constant method of taking in the nutrients and healing constituents that the plant offers. However, it is a little difficult to eat some herbs without a vehicle for transportation.

Familiar kitchen herbs are a sure bet when it comes to adding flavor and zest to any food preparation, but what about the more bitter wild or cultivated medicinal herbs that also help build immunity and act as antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents, just to mention a few of their actions? How do we get these in our diet without throwing them in our hot, simmering soup pots where almost anything can be disguised? Boiling stock pots may leach some of the herbs constituents but may destroy others. For instance, garlic is a wonderful herb, but its most potent healing properties are believed to be in the raw crushed clove, and not in the cooked version. Adding kitchen herbs and medicinal herbs to our condiments, where they serve to flavor our food and help build our health a pinch or a teaspoon at a time is a good way to go instead. Used as a finishing touch, they serve up the herbs in a raw form and retain much of their potency.

To get some of that raw, natural energy from plants we can add them to our salts, peppers, sweeteners, condiments, seeds and grains. While I do not recommend eating loads of salt or sugar (and there are many sugar options besides cane sugar), making a dirty salt or sugar decreases the amount of actual salt or sugar intake and increases the amount of healing herbs and flavor in your diet.

To make a good herb salt, it is best to use a natural salt that is derived from sea-beds or prehistoric salt deposits. Common table salt (sodium chloride) is a highly refined, unnatural product with added stabilizers and synthetic anti-caking agents such as sodium aluminosilicate and other additives. Natural salt like pink Himalayan sea salt is rich in iodine and minerals. When it comes to sweeteners, there are loads of options besides white sugar. They are all sweet, calorie-rich and not so great for our glycemic index, but some are better than others for added nutrients. A few to consider are stevia, barley malt syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, agave, honey, and maple syrup.

Quinoa, rice, millet, and homemade ground flours are superb vehicles. Flours can be made from almost anything if you have  a food processor, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle in your kitchen. Stay well away from highly processed, bleached white flour, and try grinding flax seed, nuts such as almond, hazelnut, or pecan, and amaranth seed. Amaranth flour and ground flax are gluten free and can be added to baked goods for added nutrition. And if you havent discovered buckwheat yet, give it a try, this fruit seed is related to rhubarb and is packed with minerals and fiber, and is also gluten free.

Homemade jams (like this easy recipe), mustards, vinegars, chutneys and honey are also a wonderful repository for fresh or dried healing herbs. The advantage of using fresh herbs is that they offer a powerful, untamed punch of potent flavor and healing properties. Take fresh leaves of sage, rosemary, basil or mint and roll them between your thumb and forefinger, smell their aromatic fragrance and taste their unique and individual flavors. Herb flavors are vibrant, sometimes pungent and bitter, but always nicely complicated. The disadvantage of fresh herbs is that they also add moisture, which can lead to mold growth. When using herbs, always dry them thoroughly and keep the finished product in the refrigerator. Drying your herbs before using them in any recipe will greatly diminish the chance of mold.

Simple foods can be brought to a level of high intensity and greater purpose with just a few shakes of your favorite blends, or spread on liberally using fresh condiments. We encourage experimentation at the Herbal Academy of New England where we teach about healing herbs. Our rooms and hallways are filled with the scent of herbs steeping in teas, drying on racks and bundled and bottled for our classroom lectures and practices. Exploration into formulas that can be used in health enhancing dishes and wellness promoting teas, tinctures and body care products are just part of what we do. If there is a way to get more herbs in our diet, were on it!

The Dirty Additions

Here are some ideas to help get you started. Dont eat the plain, clean, boring stuff! Dirty it up with Earths goodness in the form of herbs.

Mamas Got Her Own Salt Recipe

1/2 cup flaxseed
2 tsp dried nasturtium flowers
1 tsp dried lambs quarters
1 tsp dried celery seed
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried raspberry leaves
2 tsp dried onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
cup coarse pink Himalayan sea salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.  Pour into a clean glass jar, label and refrigerate. Use as a finishing touch for main dishes, vegetables and eggs.

Green Goodness Sea Salt

1 cup Himalayan sea salt
2 tsp dried dandelion leaf
tsp dried sage
tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried nettles
tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried chives
1 tsp dried lemon peel

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.  This recipe can be used on fish, egg, and vegetable dishes.

Sel de Provence

1/2 cup finely cut sea salt
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried savory
1 tsp dried borage leaves
1 tsp dried lavender
1 tsp dried lemon peel

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, keeping the herbs coarse, then place in an earthenware pot or a glass jar. Use this to finish sauces, soups and main dishes.  Ingredients may be placed in a small cotton bag and removed from the dish before serving. 

Spicy Salt

1/2 cup coarse sea salt
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried lemon balm
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried fennel
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
tsp dried black pepper

Salt Stimulation Sensation

1 cup coarse sea salt
1 tsp dried cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried ground ginseng root
1 tsp dried black pepper
tsp dried crushed cocoa beans
tsp dried crushed coffee beans

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency. Keep in a cool, dark place.


Curing Curry in Your Shaker

1 coarse cup sea salt
2 tbsp dried turmeric powder
1 tbsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried cardamom
tsp dried red pepper
tsp dried fennel


For the following, use dried, ground herbs/berries if you are planning to store the sugars or honeys for an extended period of time. Alternatively, you can also use fresh herbs to infuse their flavor and scent into sugars or honey for a few days or a week, and then remove them.

The following are decadent additions to sugar and honey:

Lavender, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, geranium, rose petals, nutmeg, cocoa beans, star anise, ginger, fennel, basil, mint, clove, cardamom, ashwaganda root, shishandra berries or goji berries.

Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.

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