Aromatic herbs have always played a central part in Italian cuisine, but not many people know that these herbs originate in Tuscany. It is a known fact that herbs grow in valleys and that our region is predominantly made up of hills and valleys.
Touring Italy you are bound to look up at Italian balconies and notice improvised miniature herbgardens, replete with species of herbs and spices such as rosemary, basil, sage, tarragon andparsley, just to name a few. Their aim is to add zest to already exquisite dishes, to flavor meat andfish or to simply act as a garnish, aesthetically pleasing to the eye and whetting to the appetite.
Let us take a look at several recipes that utilize these aromatic herbs!Basil, for example, can be found in the classic Italian tomato sauce Italians call “pomarola”, in Tuscany it is used to create the traditional poor man’s “pappa al pomodoro” and if eaten raw canbe a stimulating force to help fight high cholesterol.
Parsley, on the other hand, is so widespread in its natural state and found in kitchens all over that Italians use it in a playful pun by telling someone: “you’re like parsley, always in the way”. It canbe cultivated in home gardens or found growing in the wild, mostly in moist and shady areas. In Tuscany parsley is used fresh and added as a final touch to an already cooked dish.
Sage and rosemary are key aromatic herbs that make meats, potatoes, sautéed vegetables, chickpeas and beans irresistible. Romans considered sage to be sacred as it symbolized the plant of life. Sage has an enjoyable yet bold flavor and can make a dish appetizing on its own. It issuggested that they not be mixed with other aromatic herbs like parsley, for example.Rosemary, on the other hand, possesses natural properties that help digestion and stimulaterelaxation. Next time you take a bath, toss a handful of rosemary branches to the running waterand achieve total bliss!
As far as tarragon is concerned, the Sienese believe that that this herb was imported into Tuscanyfor the first time in 774 by Charlemagne. It is said that the first tarragon sauce, made of tarragonleaves mixed with garlic, the crumb of the bread dipped in vinegar, oil and salt, was their creation.
This goes to show how aromatic herbs in Tuscany serve a dual purpose: they both make dishesappetizing and act as nature’s remedy to alleviate health problems in a holistic way.