Healthy Croatian Cooking
9 Best Herbs for Healthy Croatian Cooking
Welcome to Dalmatia!
And welcome to Pape Bed and Breakfast, which is known for its healthy Croatian cooking classes and authentic Croatian cuisine.
You may already know that Dalmatia is known for its olive oil. Many herbs also grow here natively, and as a matter of fact, right here at Villa Pape in Trogir.
Our organic herb garden is available for you to use during your stay with us.
These herbs play a major role in healthy Croatian cooking. They are known for their culinary usefulness, but almost all can be used in a multitude of creative ways.
Some ideas for you:
Basil – BOSILJAK
The scent of basil is like summer itself. It helps keep insects away, and is loaded with healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants. It’s the perfect herb for cold summer dishes and salads.
You can make an easy salad with fresh basil, tomatoes, and a soft cheese. Try fresh tomatoes with fresh “sir,” (seer) the Croatian word for cheese. You can find both tomatoes and cheese at the market in Trogir.
Rosemary is very common in Dalmatia. It has a wonderful pungent and “woody” smell. It is also full of antioxidants and compounds that help keep us healthy.
One of my favorite combinations is roasted or grilled chicken (or if you are lucky, cooked “under the bell”) with lemon, garlic, black pepper, and rosemary.
This combination of acidic and pungent flavors is perfect for summer. It’s also good for digestion and energizing, if you are feeling sluggish from heavier food.
Rosemary has a stimulating effect on the brain. I like the smell of rosemary when I’m writing or engaging in mental tasks, which keeps me energized and focused.
Thyme – MAJČINA DUŠICA
Thyme is versatile and perfect for chicken and seafood, and works well in soups and stews.
Thyme is also used in traditional medicine for minor respiratory infections and coughs, as an expectorant that breaks up phlegm. It also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities.
Thyme makes a wonderful tea. Simply steep the leaves on hot water and strain.
You can also add lemon and honey, both of which are available year round at the Trogir market.
Laurel or Bay Laurel – LOVOR
Laurel is commonly used in soups and stews and is also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants.
A natural insect repellant, it is also used to infuse spirits such as gin (or rakija!) with its unique flavor.
Marjoram – MAŽURN
It’s botanical name means “joy of the mountain” in Greek, and was actually first used to make wreaths for use as wedding flowers.
Marjoram is often used in traditional medicine as a topical analgesic. It’s great for sore muscles. Taken as a tea, it has anti-spasmodic qualities.
Marjoram is a perfect herb for roasted meats and vegetables, or for the Dalmatian tradition of cooking “under the bell.”
Melissa – MATIČNJAK
Melissa, also know as lemon balm, is a powerhouse when it comes to traditional medicine. It acts as a mild diuretic and is often used to help relieve bloating, water retention, and high blood pressure.
It also has a wonderful, uplifting scent, and is my recommendation for cloudy, “jugo” (yoog) days.
Here are 2 ideas, which are great for summer:
Lemon balm sun tea: Simply let the lemon balm steep in water in the hot sun.
Pesto: Use on its own or with basil and our famous Dalmatian olive oil. You can use pine nuts (Croatian name PINJOLI) or cashews.
Oregano – ORIGANO
Oregano is also loaded with health benefits. It has immune-boosting qualities, but that’s just a start.
In fact, oregano is one of the most highly-studied plants for its medicinal compounds.
And it happens to also be perfect on pizza!
Sage – KADULJA
Sage has a wonderful earthy flavor that I love with bean soups and sausage dishes. You can also infuse olive oil with sage and peppercorns to make a wonderful marinade for meat and fish.
Sage and butter go well together. Sage butter is wonderful on bread or with fish or chicken.
Recipes call for a blender, but it’s possible to make “on the road” just by crushing the herbs with some lemon rind, shallots, and pepper.
Mix in softened butter. Now find some fresh baked bread and a bottle of wine and enjoy!
Sage is also commonly used for clearing the energy of a room.
Lavender – LAVANDA
Lavender in Dalmatia is known for its heavenly scent. Its oils have a profound effect on the human body and nervous system.
It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities, and can help soothe anxiety and stress.
You can simply take a sprig and enjoy its scent. You can make a simple sachet with a piece of cloth and a rubber band.
With all herbs, use caution and common sense. A little goes a long way, and more isn’t necessarily better. If you suspect that you have any allergies, you may want to test first. None of the advice in this article is intended to replace medical advice from a health professional.
Julie Odler is an American writer, digital marketing consultant for T&W marketing, and a former acupuncturist living in the Split/Trogir and Belgrade. She loves Croatia and writes about her experiences in her own blog, The Balkan Nomad.