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Herbs By Lydia Jensen

Basil, tarragon, chervil, mint and parsley are five of the most important herbs known for their soft, fragrant leaves. They have a unique fragrances, taste and freshness but are easily crushed.

Basil Basil

The green basil is well known, but there are other varieties such as Greek basil which has smaller leaves. Basil can have a sweet or peppery flavor. The most common combination is basil and tomatoes. Basil originated in the Italian kitchen and is commonly used on pizza or pasta sauces. Basil is available in dried form.


Tarragon belongs to the class of fine herbs together with chervil and chives. Fresh tarragon is sweet and spicy. When dried, tarragon loses a lot of its flavor. It is an important ingredient in béarnaise sauce and remoulades. It is also served with egg and potato dishes as well as chicken. Tarragon is available in dried form.


Chervil belongs to the class of fine herbs together with tarragon and chives. Parsley can be replaced by chervil. It has the unique quality of enhancing the flavors of other herbs. Chervil, like tarragon, is more flavorful in its fresh form, it is, therefore, frequently chopped and sprinkled on foods just before serving. Chervil is available in dried form.


MintMint (peppermint)

Green mint is the most popular, however, there are other mints. Green mint has a "fruity" flavor and is, therefore, often used in fruit salads, desserts and drinks.


CurlyParsley.jpg (5992 byte)Curly Parsley and Broad-leaf Parsley

Some types of celery are used for their stems and roots and are served as root vegetables. Parsley is used for garnishing, bouquet garni (together with thyme and bay leaves). Parsley gives a good taste to casseroles and is best when combined with olive oil and garlic.


Chives have rose-colored flowers which are eatable and decorative. Chives belong to the onion family. Chives are best served raw as garnish or added to food at the last minute before serving.


Hardy Herbs

Hardy herbs are bay leaves, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme. These herbs are decorative and enhance the flavors of food. They have a strong fragrance, taste and can be cooked with the food. When these herbs are dried, they have a much stronger flavor.

Bay LeavesBay Leaves

The fresh leaves are bitter which is why they are most often used in a dried. The leaves are added during cooking and removed from the food before serving. It is best to use the leaves whole, as they can then be more easily removed. Bay leaves are best in casseroles, roasted meats and grilled food.


It is difficult to see the difference between marjoram and oregano. However, marjoram has a milder taste. Oregano has a "peppery" flavor. Marjoram is mostly used in its dry form in salads.


This herb has a "peppery" flavor and is a predominant ingredient in the Italian kitchen. It is a common herb in pizza and pasta sauces. The wild form of oregano is used in Greek food. Oregano is most commonly used in its dried form.




This is a very aromatic herb. Fresh rosemary leaves are very soft and can be chopped or minced and cooked with the food. When dried, rosemary becomes harder and crisper. Sprigs of rosemary are commonly used when cooking food, as they can easily be removed before the food is served.




The fresh sage leaves are milder in flavor than the dried leaves. Sage is commonly used in sausage and in sautéed food or casseroles. The leaves can also be lightly browned and used in pasta sauces. The Italians use fresh sage in saltimbocca where the leaves are placed between the meat and Parma ham. Sage is commonly found in dried form.


Thyme has a sharp flavor. Dried sprigs of thyme are often used in food, as they can then be removed before the food is served. There are other types of thyme, such as wild thyme, cumin thyme and lemon thyme. Thyme is used in fondue, sauces, braised or oven roasted foods. Thyme is commonly found as a dried herb.


Lemon-flavored Herbs

Lemon flavors can be found in various herbs such as lemon grass and lemon balm. You can substitute grated lemon rind for these herbs.


Lemon GrassLemon grass

This belongs to the grass family, but contains an ethereal oil which is also found in lemon peel. Lemon grass is a popular ingredient in the Oriental kitchen.


Lemon BalmLemon balm

This herb belongs to the peppermint family. The leaves can be used in salads, desserts, drinks and with fish, poultry and veal .



Herbs and Vegetables

Some herbs are also considered vegetables because both the stems, and leaves (leaf celery) are eaten. The dried, crushed parts of the plant are used as spices, and in others both the seeds and fruits of the plant are used (coriander and coriander seeds).

Leaf Celery

The stalks of the leaf celery, as well as the leaves and seeds are used in cooking. The leaves of celery can be used in soups and ground meats.


Sprigs of dill have a slight taste of licorice. Dill is commonly used as a garnish but also popular in marinades, sauces and vinegars. Dill seeds have a stronger flavor which are used in pickling and some forms of alcohol (such as aquavit).



Coriander is sometimes called Chinese parsley and commonly used in Asian foods. The leaves are delicate and do not tolerate cooking. When using coriander, add it at the end just before serving. Coriander leaves are commonly used in salads and desserts. The seeds have a mild citrus flavor and are used in baking and with vegetables. It is delicious in salads and dressings for raw vegetables.

Article by: . Do you know how to cook a juicy salmon? How to avoid crying when cutting onions? How to prevent avocados from turning black?  Visit The Eclectic Cooking Ezine, portal to cooking and nutrition featuring freelance writers, doctors, and authors. Free weekly newsletter subscription:

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.