Chef Blog: Blossoming Botanicals

Chef Valeria Hernandez – Corporate Executive Chef

Botanicals refer to a variety of herbs and spices, but also flowers. In fact, almost anything you can find in a garden! We expect that botanicals will continue to grow in popularity around the world.

But first, let’s go back in time and talk about the origin of botanicals. Where did they come from? There have been many attempts to determine the age of our food plants and their cultural history. There appears to be four major areas in the world from which botanicals originated and where they were gradually dispersed, including Central and Southwestern Asia, the Mediterranean region and the highlands of the Neotropics.

As a chef in Latin America, a few botanicals that are of interest in the region, include cinnamon, cardamom, hibiscus, passionfruit, lavender, and roses. Some popular products include golden milk, turmeric bread, lavender tea, hibiscus jam, and passionfruit cookies – perfect for a well-deserved treat!

They are not only known for their great taste, but also for their perceived health benefits. As more consumers across all ages are looking for ways to support their health, botanicals are suggested to help with relaxation, increase energy levels, support self-care and more.

Across the globe, including those in developing countries, species of medicinal plants appear to be playing an increasingly prominent role; they are abundant, locally available, relatively inexpensive, and recognized for their efficacy.

Botanicals can be applied to a wide range of product categories. Chefs can use botanicals to create exciting flavor combinations. The inspiration from botanicals is truly endless!

What’s trending now in botanicals?

  • Ginger – For thousands of years, people has been using this botanical as an anti-inflammatory and some scientific research has suggested ginger as a potential agent for pain relief too.
  • Turmeric – It’s known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant.
  • Moringa – It contains a variety of proteins, vitamins and minerals. The perceived benefits of moringa include, but are not limited to, it’s nourishment, supporting healthier bones and protecting cardiovascular system.

How can you incorporate botanicals into your recipes?

  • Infuse your cooking oils with aromatic botanicals to bring a unique depth of flavor to sautéed, roasted and pan-fried dishes.
  • Incorporate different botanicals to add beautiful color and flavor to your dough blends.

What are some ways restaurants and chefs can leverage this trend?

  • As a chef, you can create a vertical garden around your restaurant in order to have access to fresh products.
  • When storing botanicals, use them dry and place them in glass containers to preserve their properties.
  • Study local botanicals and read some literature that can guide you in your future culinary adventures.

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