#4 on the list in North America is Oregano. This herb is native to Europe, and also plays an important role in Mediterranean cuisine. Settlers brought oregano plants to North America in the 16th century. Oregano gained it’s popularity when pizza gained popularity with consumers after World War II. Oregano’s earthy, warm aroma is distinct. In addition to pizza and Mediterranean food, the herb is used in a variety of dishes ranging from sauces to chili. Due to its strong flavor and smell, it’s best to pair oregano with other bold flavors, or it could end up dominating the dish.
#3 Basil plants bear leaves that have a strong aroma similar to that of cloves or anise. The leaves’ odor is powerful, the taste is more subtle. Most frequently cooks like to use basil in tomato dishes; the two flavors complement one another. Basil has become an important ingredient in Italian dishes that rely on tomato sauces. Other popular uses for basil include pairing it with meats, fish and salads. Lemon basil is commonly used in chicken dishes and desserts.
#2 Sage, an ancient herb, has long been used for medicinal purposes due to its astringent and antiseptic properties. It can treat mouth irritations like a sore throat, and research shows that it can even help diabetics by lowering blood sugar. Sage is often used in salves and lotions, treating skin ailments and helping to curb excessive perspiration. It can also treat and remove dandruff buildup when used as a hair rinse, and it’s a common ingredient in many perfumes. Like rosemary, sage has a pungent smell, and its aroma is described as fresh and soothing. Due to its minty, savory taste, the herb is often used in sauces and seasonings for meat entrees like pork chops, turkey and chicken breasts, and it’s a classic pairing with winter squash and pumpkin.
#1 Rosemary is an evergreen shrub that also belongs to the mint family. The plant has a bitter, woodsy taste. Like oregano, rosemary can be a powerful seasoning and should be paired with dishes that have bold flavors. It’s also a versatile herb; cooks commonly pair rosemary with meats, root vegetables and hearty stews or soups. Winemakers tend to combine its essential oils with dry white wines to produce vermouth. Slide your thumb and finger down a sprig to remove the leaves, adding them before you cook your food when adding rosemary to your dish. You can increase the intensity of the flavors by chopping the leaves which will release the oils inside. You can also include entire sprigs of rosemary or even use them as skewers — just be sure to remove them before you sit down to enjoy your meal, or you may be in for a bitter surprise.