Summer is a fabulous time for cooking, because produce is at its best. Fresh herbs in particular are abundant, adding color, flavor and goodness to most any dish. We caught up with Brittany Wood Nickerson, author of Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen (Storey, 2017), for three of her favorites.

CILANTRO

“This is a wonderful cooling herb, and it helps your body gently detoxify, too,” says Nickerson. She explains that, according to several studies, cilantro binds with a number of heavy metals and helps remove them from your system. “Because it removes heat from the body, it’s an excellent herb for a hot day.”

How to use: Mix into spicy foods, such as salsa; use as a garnish; or blend into curries or pesto. “Because it’s cooling, cilantro complements hot, spicy flavors.”

Click here for Brittany’s Cilantro Lemonade recipe.

PARSLEY

“Of all the culinary herbs, parsley is the highest in nutrients, with vitamins A and C, plus calcium, magnesium and potassium,” says Nickerson. “Parsley is excellent for the kidneys, as it helps the body process waste and detoxify.” She adds that it can also help manage high blood pressure and premenstrual bloating.

How to use: As a flavoring herb and garnish; also as a vegetable. “I like using it in large quantities. I make a parsley and apple salad, and also pesto.” Nickerson prefers more mild flat-leaf parsley as a vegetable, and stronger, saltier-flavored curly parsley as a garnish.

MINT

“Like cilantro, mint has a fresh, vibrant flavor and is very cooling and detoxifying for the body,” says Nickerson. “It has a distinctive flavor that is a nice addition to a lot of fresh summer dishes.”

How to use: Adds a fresh pop to salads or dressings, yogurt or strong cheeses. “Make a mint and feta bruschetta. The oniony, minty flavor really complements the saltiness of the cheese.” Drop a few leaves in a cold drink, or steep in boiling water for a digestive tea.

TIP

Have leftover fresh herbs? Blend cilantro or parsley into pesto, and freeze it. Use mint in tea. Use in ice cubes for fun summer drinks. Use in butter; will last several days in the fridge, or several months in the freezer.