Guest Post: Essential Herbs – what do I need to know?

Since appearing in a slow cooking commercial where I learnt to cook using herbs and spices I have been fascinated with finding out about herbs and all their different uses. Hence when I was sent this guest post I thought it quite interesting to post up here. Enjoy!
If you are anything like me, one of the things that having children makes you realise is that you need to make mealtimes more interesting. Whether you are single or living with a partner it’s easy to let eating at home become something that just gets done with the minimum of fuss. Eating out is the only real chance to get excited about eating. 
Of course, when you have children everything changes. Food and everything surrounding it quickly morphs into something totally separate from anything you have known before.
In the early days, mealtimes can become even more fractured and rushed but as kids get older it is important to think about how to set habits that can last a lifetime.
One of the very best things you can do to make sure every member of your family has a good, healthy and nutritious diet is to make mealtimes that are interesting and a little fun too. Obviously we all have certain standard dishes that provide no-nonsense and efficient results, but it’s nice to be able to pull a something a little special out of the hat from time to time. 
Every cookery show on TV (and there are plenty to choose from these days) puts an emphasis on ‘flavours’. Obviously using good quality ingredients is the basis for a dish that has flavour, as is knowing how to use salt and pepper to season properly. But what else can you do to enrich your food? 
Herbs are any plants used for flavouring (and also for medicine or perfume). Those used in cooking usually come from the leafy green parts of a plant, whereas fresh or dried seeds, berries, bark, roots and fruit derivatives are called ‘spices’.
Oregano is used in many Mediterranean recipes to give a fresh and fragrant flavour. Indeed, the word itself is Greek for ‘joy of the mountains’ and it is found growing wild on the mountainsides of Greece and other countries in the region.
It is sometimes called ‘the pizza herb’ as it is used on virtually every kind of pizza topping to give that unique flavour of Italian cooking.
Other popular herbs include thyme, parsley and basil. All of these have their own unique character and, either on their own or in different combinations, they can be responsible for turning an otherwise bland dish into something that is bursting with flavour to conjure up the cuisine of a foreign land.

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