Italian seasoning is a pre-blended mixture of dried herbs like basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, and coriander. It originated in the Mediterranean region where ancient Greek and Romans experimented with different herbs and discovered this wonderful blend. Eventually, the early European settlers in the United States found out that the herbs were hard to find; they were saddened that they might not be able to cook their favorite hometown meals. Thus, the blend was introduced and it soon became popular in bringing Italian flavors to America, which is characterized by piney and earthy flavor notes with a hint of tang, mint, and sweet undertones.
Italian Seasoning Trivia
- Most Italians, if not all, don’t know about Italian seasoning.
- Italian seasoning is used worldwide except in Italy; it is thought that this seasoning originated in the United States because of that.
- The reason why Italian chefs don’t use this seasoning is that Italian recipes usually call for just two or three herbs, in which the cooks find it more convenient to just go for individual herbs and spices rather than a blend.
- Italian seasoning features many health benefits. It is rich in vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, iron, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Thus, it can help in alleviating gastrointestinal illnesses, constipation, and digestion. It also enhances our immunity and helps in preventing cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
Italian Seasoning Buying Guide
Nowadays, Italian seasoning is easy to find in your favorite grocery stores and online shops. However, the main downside of buying commercially produced ones is the purity of its ingredients, as most of them have added salt, spices and herbs, even stabilizers and other preservatives. Nevertheless, here are some helpful things when you opt to buy the store-bought ones:
- You can find Italian seasoning in the spice aisle section of the store.
- Some commercially produced Italian seasoning goes heavy on the salt. Check out the sodium content or better yet, opt for no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium, and just add salt as you normally flavor your dishes.
- Dried-whole spices tend to be more aromatic and flavorful than pre-packaged alternatives. If you are to buy the pre-blended ones, the best choice is the one that comes with a grinder.
- Go for the ones that are organically grown; this is an indication that the blend has not been irradiated as this process damages the quality of your seasoning.
Italian Seasoning Production & Farming in Texas
Herb gardening in general is popular in the state of Texas not only because of its culinary purposes but also due to its medicinal and therapeutic use. Thus, all of the herbs needed to blend an Italian seasoning can be grown conveniently in the state. Herbs are usually places in flower beds, rock gardens, or pots, on a well-drained soil with a good amount of sunlight. Upon harvest, herbs are loosely tied in bundles and hanged in a cool and darkroom. You can also use artificial heat to dry them, but just be aware that you will lose some flavor and quality by using this method. Seeds are readily available in your local garden center or seed catalog, or you can use the seeds from the herb plants themselves.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Although store-bought Italian seasoning is more convenient than blending one at home, it will never be our best choice. Not only that these commercially-produced products are usually heavy on salt and tend to provide less flavor, but they sometimes contain additives and chemicals for a lower cost yet fast-producing and shelf-stable products. Here are some additives that we found on best-selling Italian seasoning brands:
- Natural and artificial flavorings – These are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For Italian seasoning, some natural flavorings include: minced garlic, red bell pepper, spices, carrot granules, minced onion, tomato granules, ground mustard, citric acid, and more.
- Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA which is 2,300 mg per day.
Italian seasoning can be purchased in either ground or whole-dried form. Most of them are packaged in glass containers with grinders, which is also known as Italian seasoning mill. Nevertheless, it can also come in sealed plastics which are more advantageous to commercial restaurants.
Enjoying Italian Seasoning
Italian seasoning is usually enjoyed by sprinkling or freshly grounding the blends on top of pizzas, sandwiches, nachos, tacos, tortillas, pasta dishes, stir-fried vegetables, steaks, soups, and casseroles. You can also use this to season meat prior to grilling or roasting; it always works perfectly on beef, lamb, and poultry. That being said, it can also be added to meat marinades and Italian sausages. Another popular way to enjoy this seasoning is to mix it with butter and spread it on French bread; top it with some Parmesan cheese and you can truly taste the terroir of Italy.
Italian Seasoning should be kept in a sealable or airtight container. It should be then stored in a cool and dry area far from humid and hot zones like stoves, grills, and ovens to prolong their shelf life. This spice practically lasts forever, that’s why it doesn’t have an expiration date. However, its flavor weakens over time. Italian seasoning usually retains its freshness for 1 to 2 years. Just remember to adjust your recipe and add more in case your seasoning is quite old.
Make your own Italian Seasoning:
Italian seasoning is a staple item in most kitchens; however, it doesn’t have to be purchased at the store since it is relatively easy to prepare this at home and most of the ingredients are already in either your garden or pantries. Hence, below is a quick recipe that you can make ahead of time. You can also choose to add other spices like red pepper flakes or chili powder if you want a little bit of heat. You can simply start by combining equal amounts of herbs and add as you’d like. Just remember that basil, marjoram, sage, and oregano are Italian seasoning’s primary ingredients.
Yield: 18 tablespoons
- 2 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp dried marjoram
- 2 tbsp dried sage
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp dried cilantro
- 2 tbsp dried savory
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a sealable or airtight container and store accordingly. You may also transfer them onto a mill for convenience. Also, you may opt to blend these ingredients in a food processor, if you’d like a more pulverized consistency.