The name “herb” comes from the Latin word “herba”, meaning grass or herbage. Herbs have been the main source of medicine throughout human history. Culinary herbs are the aromatic leaves of the fresh or dried plants used to enhance the flavor of the food. There are literally hundreds of plants that can be grown for this purpose.
In former times, the term ‘herbs’, when used in cookery, included all plants and vegetable that grow above ground, or in simple terms various aromatic plants that are used in cookery. Pot herbs traditionally include six vegetables: chard, lettuce, orache, purslane, sorrel and spinach. They are used not only to flavor soup but also as vegetables, salad ingredient and as a garnish. Herbes a soupe, which was traditionally used to flavor soups and stews, consisted of various green vegetables (carrot and celery tops, radish leaves, parsley stalks). Herbes de Provence consists of a mixture of aromatic plants (thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaf, savory). Herbes Venitiennes are a mixture of aromatic herbs (tarragon, parsley, sorrel and chervil), which are finely chopped and incorporated into beurre manie.
The herbs have been highly prized for centuries for their endless uses in cookery as well as in the field of the medicinal and healing properties. In cooking, herbs can make a significant difference to a dish, making a simplest of the meal great with full of aroma and flavor. Fresh herbs can be easily grown in home in the garden, or in a pot or window box, and are also widely available from supermarkets, as sprigs, leaves and growing in pots. They are available in dried and frozen as well as fresh form.
Though the range of herbs used in the cookery is endless, this study will take into account the main herbs that are usually seen and used on a day today basis in the hotel kitchens. The most common herbs are as follows:
It has two types, common and sweet; both originated in India. Its name is derived from Greek word basilikos, meaning royal. This delicate aromatic herb is widely used in Italian cooking. It is very important in Thai and Vietnam cooking also used in salads and curries. The herb has a slightly pungent perfume, which can be notice just by brushing the leaves. Basil has a great affinity with tomatoes and other Mediterranean vegetables such as aubergines and fennel and is the herb that is most likely to associate with Provence in France and Italian cooking. There are numerous varieties of common basil. Purple basil has dark wine red leaves, while handkerchief basil has large leaves and Neapolitan basil has crinkly leaves. Sweet basil also known as Asian basil or Thai basil has a more aniseed flavor. There are a number of varieties and sweet basil comes closest to the basil with which we are familiar, with glossy pointed leaves. Krapow, commonly known as holy basil, is another sweet basil but narrower leaves that tend to be dull rather than shine. It has a lemon scent and a peppery flavor.
Also known as Arab parsley or Chinese parsley in France and as cilantro in the United States can be used like parsley: the leaves feature especially in the cuisines of China, South-east Asia, South America and Mexico. It is an aromatic plant used both for its leaves and seeds. The origin goes back to the days of Romans who use this for preserving their meats. Its most classic use is for the preparation of vegetables a la grecque and of pickles in vinegar. Fresh coriander looks similar to flat leaf parsley, but the flavor is completely different with a piquant taste and intense aroma. Coriander is used extensively throughout the world, where ever a distinctive fresh pungency is required. In curries, dals and chutneys in India; in kebabs, meat balls and stir fries in the middle east and far east: and in salsas in South America. It is often sold with its root intact. The roots have a more intense flavor than the leaves and can be used in curry paste. The leaves also make a good garnish.
A herb originated in southern Europe and cultivated mainly for its aromatic leaves, which are used to garnish or flavor many dishes. There are mainly two types; flat leaf parsley which has large, flat, relative smooth leaves , has a strong flavor and curly leaf parsley, the most commonly available form which has bright green , crinky leaves and good flavor. There is another type i.e. turnip rooted, which is cultivated for its swollen roots, which is cooked like celeriac and used in soups. It is one of the main ingredients of a bouquet garni. When mixed with garlic it is often served with sautéed or fried fish dishes. Parsley is frequently used chopped to garnish many dishes and to add a touch of freshness. It is also used in the preparation of the flavored butters. It has a very good freezing quality also.
It is one of the basic herbs used in cooking and is one of the main ingredients of the bouquet garni. It has a very good aroma and that is the reason it is used so extensively in various dishes. The other variety i.e. Wild Thyme also called serpolet in France has clusters of pink flower and has less pronounced flavor then garden thyme. It is used fresh or dried. It is very good for flavoring eggs, salads, tomato dishes and lentils. In Provencal cookery it is used to flavor ragout, mutton and rabbit. Otherwise it is considered to be a very mild herb and used most of the time as a great flavoring for chicken.
Also known as Russian or Swedish parsley, it is an aromatic plant originated in the east and introduced into Europe in ancient times. It is commonly called as false anise or bastard fennel but it infect has a very peculiar delicate flavor of its own. It grows wild in Spain, Portugal and Italy. It thrives in the warmer regions of the northern hemisphere and is widely used in Scandinavian cooking with salmon for making Gravadlax. Dill goes well in potato salads and with cucumber. It makes a good addition to creamy sauces and can be added to a wide variety of egg dishes. It is also used as a flavoring for dressings and dips, used in marinades and is a good partner of mustard. It should be added at the last minutes before serving as the delicate flavors goes away while cooking.
A plant of the Mediterranean origin, which is now widely cultivated. The feathery leaves have a slightly aniseed flavor. The leaves are also used for garnish. The plant is a member of the same family as parsley and dill. It grows in abundantly near the sea and in damp places, and has been used in cooking for thousands of years. The herb goes particularly well with fish and chicken. Chopped fresh fennel leaves may be added to mayonnaise and other yoghurt base dressings, creamy sauces, stuffing and soups. The fennel bulb can be used raw in salads or cooked in a wide variety of dishes.
This plant was originated in central Asia. Its name is derived from the Arabic tarkhun- the herb was formerly reputed to cure snake bite. Fresh tarragon is deservedly one of our most popular herbs. The slender leafed French variety has a unique intense sweet vanilla flavor and is considered superior to the coarser tasting Russian tarragon. This herb has an affinity with egg and cheese dishes, taste good with poultry and can be added to green salads. It is used to enliven dressings and mayonnaise, and is excellent finely chopped and stirred into cream and egg base sauces (Béarnaise) to serve with salmon and trout. Tarragon vinegar is a classic ingredient for many salad dressings and sauces. Tarragon leaves are used fresh or they may be preserved by drying or freezing.
It is originated from Central Asia but now common throughout Europe. It has a delicate flavor that goes well with soups, omelettes, sauces (béarnaise, gribiche, vinaigrette) and fish. It also looks very close to the flat leaf parsley. In addition to the common chervil there is another variety which is curly and used for decorative. There is also bulbous chervil; its tuberous roots, with high starch content, are eaten like Jerusalem artichokes. Chervil loses its flavor with prolonged cooking, so it is important to add it at the end of the cooking. It keeps very well when frozen.
A very fragrant aromatic plant used in infusion, to flavor liqueurs, sweets and syrups, and as a culinary herb. There are many varieties of this very famous and versatile herb. Some common ones include; Spearmint, the most popular mint. It has pointed serrated leaves with the fresh familiar flavor we mostly associate with mint. This is the preferred type for mint jelly or mint sauce to accompany roast lamb. It is also used for the tea that such a favorite in North Africa and Middle East, and for Kentucky mint julep. Pepper mint with its darker, longer leaves has a stronger flavor. It produces very pungent oil used mainly in confectionery. Japanese mint is a species from which menthol is extracted. The soft green leaves of apple mint have a more subtle fruitier flavor. Mint is widely used as a flavoring in a wide variety of dishes. It is an essential ingredient to the Mediterranean salad Tabbouleh. In India it is also mixed with yoghurt to make Raita and Mint chutney accompaniments to Biryani and kebabs. Asian mint is more strongly flavored than most European types, with a sweet cool aftertaste.
This herb is closely related to oregano has three main known varieties; Sweet marjoram and more flavorful pot marjoram. There is also another type known as wild marjoram which grows in abundance in Greece. Marjoram has a slightly sweeter flavor and a sweet, almost perfumed aroma. It goes particularly well in Mediterranean style vegetable dishes such as ratatouille or in casserole and tomato sauces. It should be added at the last minute as it has a mild flavor which diminishes as it is cooked for long. It is also used in marinades and sometime also used in pizzas topping. In Greece it is frequently used with lamb.
It is also known as wild marjoram and undoubtedly one of the most important herbs for pizza topping. As the use says this herb is most commonly related to Italy where it grows in abundance. It has a very robust flavor with a heady. It has a warm aroma and a pleasant slightly musty flavor that brings out the flavor of tomatoes and aubergines. It is known as joy of the mountain.
This herb is a native of the Mediterranean countries. The name comes from the Latin word Rosmarinus which means rose of the sea. The sprigs or spiky leaves are used either fresh or dried. They have a strong flavor and only a few are needed to flavor a marinade, a ragout or a grill. It goes particularly well with lamb, chicken and game. Its flavor can also enliven bean and vegetable dishes.
An herb that is widely cultivated in temperate climate for its leaves. The name comes from the Latin word salvus which means safe, in good health as traditionally it was considered to have curative properties. It also aids in digestion. It has a potent aroma and slightly peppery flavor and a little is required to flavor a dish. It goes excellent with pork dishes, especially grilled pork. It is used most frequently in Italian cuisine: Saltimbocca, osso bucco, paupiettes and rice minestrone are flavored with sage. In France it is mainly used in Provence for flavoring white meats and certain vegetable soup. In Middle East it is eaten with roast mutton and in china the tea is flavored with sage.
This herb is from the mediterranean region, which is obtained from an evergreen tree name as Bay laurel or True laurel. It is widely cultivated in temperature regions for its glossy aromatic leaves known as Bay leaf. It is one of the most commonly used culinary herbs. Its leaf is always incorporated into a bouquet garni to flavor any stock and soups, ragouts and various casseroles. This herb is hardly available fresh as most of the time it is sold as dried. It can also be used fresh which will have a different flavor of its own
This strongly flavor herb comes from a tropical tree of the citrus-rue family, which is native to Southern India and Sri Lanka. The long leaves are shiny, dark green on top with paler undersides. It has a warm and spicy aroma when they are bruised or rubbed. It imparts a curry flavor that is unique to this particular herb. A classic way of using curry leaves is by adding them to the hot fat for few seconds. This way the flavor is best extracted from the leaves. They can also be used chopped or whole in the Curries, but in the latter case they should be carefully removed from the dishes as some people do not enjoy the leaves coming in to their mouth while enjoying the meal.
These are the member of the onion family and have a very mild onion flavor. On the other hand there is one more variety which is known as Chinese Chives also called as Garlic chives have a delicate garlic aroma. They can be snipped with scissors and added to the egg dishes as garnish and for salads and soups also. They are an essential flavoring in potato salad. They are also a component of fine herbs. They make a good combination with soft cheese. When they are mixed into soften butter they make a good alternative to garlic butter. Caution has to be taken if they are to be cooked along with some hot dish. They should be cooked very briefly as they lose their flavor on prolonged cooking.