Medicinal Holiday Cooking
Tis' the season for festive celebrations, and when you're an herbalist, that also means the season of sneaking herbs into everything you can. From immune-boosting berries to digestion-supporting spices, I always find a way to fortify my holiday meals with the healing power of plants.
Holidays often mean big, heavy meals (cue digestive support), large crowds (hello immune boosting botanicals), and cold nights (in steps warming spices). No matter what the season brings, there's always an herb that can be added to the menu to help make the season an intentional one in the kitchen.
Though this list is in no way exhaustive, below you can find my four favorite herbs to use in the kitchen when I'm preparing my holiday meals. Interested in getting more holiday recipes that feature the botanicals below (and more)? Check out my holiday cookbook for even more tips!
Holiday Kitchen Herbals
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Antimicrobial and delicious, thyme is probably my favorite herb of all time (no pun intended). A useful aid in digestion, this savory little herbal can be added to dresses, stuffing, sauces, and even made into a lung-soothing end-of-night tea. I prefer to use thyme fresh but dried will do if it's all you have.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) Immune-boosting and antiviral, this tasty berry is an immune-supportive staple in the winter herbal world. Add it to teas, sauces, and desserts, or pre-make it into a syrup to keep the family's systems boosted before heading into the holiday crowds. My favorite way to incorporate elderberry around the holidays is in an elderberry-infused "cran-elder" sauce.
Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) Another immune-supportive herbal, shiitake mushrooms are well known for their ability to help boost the immune system due to their high beta-glucan content (a type of polysaccharide). Beta-glucans help give mushrooms their immune-modulating action and also help boost the body's natural defense system against pathogens. As an added bonus, mushrooms are also delish when sauteed with garlic and ghee/butter, making an excellent holiday side and/or addition to stuffing (and they taste great with thyme too)!
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)