Oregano. U.S. soldiers returning from Italy after World War II popularized fresh oregano, praising its unique flavor. Greek for “joy of the mountain,” oregano is a good source of bone-strengthening manganese and may help regulate blood sugar. Enhance omelets, roasted potatoes, and mild-flavored fish with fresh oregano; pungent dried oregano adds depth to thin-crust pizza.
Basil. A celebrated cousin to mint, basil imparts a sweet, clovelike flavor to salads, pastas, and soups. It’s rich in vitamin K (essential for blood clotting) and phytochemicals, which may help control sugar metabolism. Grind basil, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil into a simple pesto; incorporate minced basil into desserts such as ice cream or fruit compote.
Rosemary. This native Mediterranean herb features silvery-green leaves that lend piney, lemony flavor to roasts, stews, and fish. Whether finely chopped or used as whole sprigs, rosemary may soothe upset stomachs and support the circulatory and nervous systems. Stir-fry with onions and mushrooms for a fragrant side dish.
Sage. Antibacterial, packed with antioxidants, and possibly memory enhancing, sage enjoys a time-honored reputation; even its name derives from the Latin word salvus, meaning “safe.” Add slightly bitter, chopped fresh sage to poultry or pasta; sauté it with garlic and cannellini beans; or stir it into macaroni and cheese.