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Aromatic salad, elixir of health

Aromatic salads of herbs and spices, with appetising flavours and vital health benefits.

A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition and conducted by the Institute of Biological Chemistry of Urbino University highlights how the use of spices and aromatic herbs combined with raw vegetables, for example salad, amplifies the antioxidant effects of the latter.

 

Adding spices to your aromatic salad increase antioxidant properties

Antioxidants are precious allies to healthy living: they protect the body from free radicals’ attack, responsible for cardiovascular diseases, tumours and ageing. Fruits and vegetables contain such protective substances in abundance. Researchers have now discovered that (like the Mediterranean diet teaches) it’s enough to add a few grammes of oregano or marjoram, thyme, wild fennel, turmeric and so forth to our salads and raw vegetables to see the antioxidant potential of our dishes increase drastically. An example? 3g of marjram in 200g of mixed salad increase antioxidant properties by 200 percent. Amongst the spices tested by researchers, the ones that are most in synergy with vegetables’ antioxidant characteristics, increasing them, are cumin and fresh ginger.

 

ginger lemon
Ginger is rich in antioxidants.

 

Some Mediterranean herbs to use in cooking for a fresh summer in the name of health.

 

Wild fennel

Sweet, with hints of aniseed. Use its fresh sprouts and, in late summer, its seeds. Its use is very popular in the south of Italy, especially in Sicily where, as well as being one of the ingredients in pasta con sarde, it is used in a variety of recipes. It’s great also as a liquor, a speciality from Calabria, which is prepared with the alcoholic infusion of the plant, water and sugar. Wild fennel is a digestive, tonic, vermifuge and is useful to new mothers because it stimulates the production of milk.

wild fennel
Wild fennel is a digestive, tonic, vermifuge and is useful to new mothers because it stimulates the production of milk.

 

Oregano

There are 25 species of it that grow wild in forests, uncultivated land and sunny Mediterranean areas. Use the leaves and flowers, fresh or dry. Oregano has an intense aroma, which is almost spicy; its flowers were once used to make a sweet digestive aperitif. It acts as a tonic, stimulant, antispasmodic and is useful for curing cough; strongly antiseptic, it is an excellent preservative for broths and pickled foods.

oregano
Oregano acts as a tonic, stimulant, antispasmodic and is useful for curing cough; strongly antiseptic, it is an excellent preservative for broths and pickled foods.

 

Marjoram

Similar to oregano, with small and oval-shaped leaves, its taste is more delicate. Marjoram is a herb typically used in Ligurian cuisine; it’s rare to find a filling that doesn’t include it. It is an aperitif, digestive and antispasmodic, suitable to contrasting abdominal and menstrual pains.

marjoram
It is an aperitif, digestive and antispasmodic, suitable to contrasting abdominal and menstrual pains.

 

Basil

Each variety has its own characteristic scent, more or less tending towards the taste of lemon or mint. When the plant is very small (a week old) it contains traces of a substance which is thought to cause cancer in men (the plant produces this substance to defend itself from parasites): don’t worry though, in growing the plant “purifies” itself, and by the time it’s ready to be picked the toxic substance has vanished, experts say. In any case, the healthy Mediterranean habit of accompanying basil with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and pine nuts, the ingredients of Ligurian pesto, creates an extra barrier against any undesired effects.

basil
The healthy Mediterranean habit of accompanying basil with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and pine nuts, the ingredients of Ligurian pesto, creates an extra barrier against any undesired effects.

 

Chives

Their taste is halfway between that of fresh garlic and onion, though more delicate and aromatic than either of them. Use its spindly and hollow leaves, chopped raw. This herb, which grows naturally but is also easily cultivated in the orchard, has digestive, purifying, antiseptic, stimulating and cardiotonic properties. Its flowers (in season July and August) are edible.

chives
Chives have digestive, purifying, antiseptic, stimulating and cardiotonic properties.

 

Mint

Digestive, refreshing, a stimulant both raw and cooked. Its peppery taste and pungent aroma assuage strong flavours, such as that of eggs, tomatoes and meat. It’s the most ethnic of Mediterranean herbs, working well in couscous, with Moroccan salted codfish and tea-based infusions. It’s also the most suitable to be used in fusion cuisine, excellent in optimising strawberry and raspberry fruit salads, amazing in combination with melon and chocolate.

mint
Digestive, refreshing, a stimulant both raw and cooked.

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