The sparkling fresh taste of mint makes it one of the most preferred greens in salads, chutneys, sauces and soups. It goes brilliantly with most fruits and vegetables and combines well even with minced meat.
The digestive properties of ‘pudina’ or mint are legendary. Mint is rich in phosphorus and calcium, which makes it good for bones and teeth. It is also a good source of iron. Setalvad recommends a mint salad, especially if you have the sniffles, as it clears out the mucus.
Mint is easy to grow and will survive for most of the year. Insects, especially mosquitoes, are said to be wary of mint, so it helps to place a tub of the herb at the entrance or in the kitchen. Pinch the mint stalks regularly to keep them from straggling.
BASIL (OCIMUM BASILICUM)
For most of us, mention of basil reminds one of ‘tulsi’ (Ocimum kilimanjaro) or holy basil, a stronger-flavoured version than the basil used in Italian food and most salads. Whichever variety you choose, basil adds a sharp fragrant punch to the salad. Basil is traditionally paired with tomato, potato or poultry.
Basil is packed with nutrients and has essential oils such as citronellol and terpineol, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits. Packed with iron, just 100g of the fresh leaves provide about a quarter of the recommended dietary allowance. As Dr Kakar points out, that makes basil a good food to improve blood quality.
CELERY (APIUM GRAVEOLENS)
The crunchy texture, exhilarating green colour and characteristic aromatic flavour of celery have made it a popular salad herb. If the pretty leaves remind you of carrot and dill, it is because they belong to the same family. It is a versatile herb that goes well with chicken, tuna and fruits such as apple and pear. Celery, cut into sticks, can be served as a raw starter with a sour cream dip.
Although most of us use only the stalks, every part of the celery plant is edible. Rich in vitamin C, it boosts the immune system and keeps cold and inflammatory problems such as arthritis and asthma at bay. The presence of vitamin C, coumarins and phthalides makes it a good weapon against cancer and also helps relax muscles. Says Setalvad: “Celery contains various B vitamins and lots of essential protein. It is also rich in iron, which makes it excellent for anyone suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, or even anaemia.”