Few combinations of flavours will reward as much as herbs and berries. Combine them in baked desserts, smoothies, and ice pops for a special and sophisticated taste sensation. Here are some suggestions on how to use herbs and berries to make magical treats.
Herbs are very easy to grow on a windowsill using small containers. That means you can use them spontaneously all year long. All it takes is some quality seeds, good potting soil, and a few hours of direct sunlight each day. If you don’t have a sunny apartment, choose some varieties that do well in shade, such as lemon balm or mint. And, if your home has little natural light, you can even grow them using an under-counter LED fixture.
Your herb and berry smoothies can be as plain or creative as you like. Herbs are a special treat, especially fresh herbs, because they are uncommon and lively when paired well. They allow you to bring out flavours in the fruit that you might not have noticed before. Just a pinch or two can make a big difference. For these recipes, you can substitute dried herbs but for the full effect try to use fresh. Berries can be fresh or frozen.
Blackberries are wonderfully versatile and pair well with savoury herbs, basil, and mint. If your crop is on the tart side, consider experimenting with peppermint or spearmint. A few mint leaves will make the berry taste sweeter. Basil can be used in slightly larger amounts.
For a very special treat, add a pinch of dried oregano to your drink (or anything with blackberries). The combination stimulates the retro-nasal effect by making the nose and tastebuds work together to create a three-dimensional flavour. The taste of oregano and blackberry gives the illusion of eating fresh berries while picking them from the bush. It has something to do with the woodiness of the oregano that suggests aromas of the soil and branches of the vines.
Raspberries have a pairing ability that seems magical when done right. Thyme, basil, and oregano are very good in varying quantities. If you enjoy bay leaf tea, consider using it (cold) instead of water or milk in your next raspberry smoothie. The combination is very sophisticated and elevates the tart-sweetness of the fruit to a new level.
Blueberries come in a variety of taste profiles, from the tart and concentrated flavour of the wild blueberry to the eat-from-hand varieties that are milder but large and juicy. A small amount of mint or lemon balm is wonderful with milder berries, such as the very large West Coast Spartan. Low-bush and wild varieties tend to have concentrated flavours and pair well with savoury herbs such as oregano, marjoram, and rosemary. Culinary lavender works especially well to sweeten tart berries.
Strawberries pair nicely with the softer, summer herbs such as mint, basil, and lavender. These can bring out the bright flavours. Strawberries, especially frozen, can make a recipe waterier so reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe. Homemade strawberry puree, made by reducing a batch of frozen berries on the stove for 30 minutes, is an excellent base for a smoothie because it concentrates the flavours.
Many smoothie recipes call for a banana or yogurt to give the drink a creamy mouthfeel and taste. While these are delicious and very popular, they may be too filling during hot weather or when a lighter drink is desire. Instead, try using filtered water or cold brew tea to make a smoothie. Both options are wonderful. Cold green tea, for example, is light and gives it an extra kick from the caffeine, making it an interesting alternative to coffee in the morning.
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