Herb Your Enthusiasm: Herb Day

May 1 – Kayla Thompson, Adult Services Coordinator

   

If any of you know me, have seen my blog posts, program videos, or book talks then you may know that I absolutely love plants, especially of the herbal variety. Despite the fact that I kill just about every plant that I try to grow, every year for the past four or five years I’ve tried to grow an herb garden. This process usually goes well for the first month or two…until it doesn’t anymore. Either I am bad at keeping up with inclement weather which ultimately takes out my garden, or I get a pest infestation that I am unable to control, or I commit chemical warfare on my dear plants in an attempt to help boost their growth. Whatever the case, by fall I have usually accidentally killed either all or most of my herbs and plants. That being said, let’s talk a little bit about Herb Day, some of the more popular herbs used by the public, and then some of my favorite herbs to both grow and use!

History:

This unofficial holiday was started by a group called the Herb Day Coalition in 2006 in order to educate the public about herbs and encourage their use more in people’s daily lives. The day is usually celebrated on the first Saturday of May (so next year look out for May 7th!) and brings together a vast variety of people together from herbalists to gardeners to cooks to the general public and attempts to teach people about the culinary, medicinal, and even cosmetic use of these everyday plants. Check the website Time and Date for more information!

Top Nine Herbs:

  1. Basil: There are many different types of basil plants including, but not limited to, sweet basil, Thai sweet basil, Greek basil, and purple (or dark) basil. (These 4 also happen to be my favorite of the many many types out there.) Basil is mainly used in Italian dishes and is one of the most popular herbs out there in terms of cooking and gardening.
  2. Cilantro: With cilantro I have found that you either love it or you hate it. This is usually due to the fact that some people have a certain gene where it makes the plant taste like soap. It is used commonly in Mexican and Asian cuisine and can be harvested weekly without affecting its growth too much.
  3. Dill: When planted well, dill can grow to be a large plant quite fast. I love to use it as one of the seasonings in my fried chicken breading, but that isn’t for everyone. Most people know dill because of its use in pickling cucumbers and other foods. Its flavor tends to be strongest when harvested right before it flowers.
  4. Mint: This is another herbal plant that has many different types including, but not limited to, peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint (these three are my favorites). Spearmint is the mint most used in desserts and teas, but peppermint is used more for aromas and such. Surprisingly the family that the mint plant belongs to, Lamiaceae, also includes basil, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme as well as many many other herbs.
  5. Oregano: Oregano is another one of those herbs that has many many different types. This herb is used most commonly in Greek and Italian foods for flavoring anything from soups and stews to sauces. It is a part of the mint family and includes varieties such as: Greek oregano, Italian oregano, Mexican oregano, and Marjoram among others.
  6. Parsley: There are two more popular types of parsley used in the culinary world: Italian parsley and curly parsley. The Italian parsley is used in soups, salads, and sauces to flavor and reduce the amount of salts for dishes. Curly parsley is used similarly when it comes to salads and vegetables, but is also widely used as a garnish and to flavor herb butters. There is also a root type of parsley that looks similar to a parsnip though the two are different.
  7. Rosemary: After mint, rosemary is probably one of my favorite herbs to grow, dry, and use. I love the aroma and taste it gives in almost every dish I use it in. My brother actually uses it for a lemon and rosemary salt rub (which is also good when added to melted butter and spread on toasted bread). Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean and to Asia and is both considered an evergreen plant and a part of the mint family along with basil and oregano. The first mention of this herbal plant is on a cuneiform (clay) tablet that dates back to about 5000 BC, and it was used in Ancient Egyptian burial rites.
  8. Sage: Regular garden sage is used the most in the kitchen though there are many types of this plant. Many of you readers probably use it every Thanksgiving season and maybe even everyday when cooking chicken. It is most commonly used as a poultry seasoning. Surprise, surprise it is also part of the mint family which is why I love mint so much! It is also considered a perennial evergreen shrub and includes types like Salvia melissordora (or the grape-scented sage), Salvia fruticosa (also known as greek sage), and Salvia sonomensis (which is an ornamental plant most often grown in California).
  9. Thyme: Thyme is probably tied with rosemary for second place in my herb loving heart. I usually grow three different types in my garden (though there are plenty of other different types): lemon thyme (my favorite thyme of all), English thyme, and German thyme. Lemon and English thyme are both culinary and though food is their best known usage, they also have medicinal and ornamental qualities as well.

Books About Herbs:

Jeanne Rose’s Kitchen Cosmetics: Using herbs, fruit & flowers for natural bodycare by Jeanne Rose (Print, Nonfiction 613.488 ROS)
Easy Growing: Organic herbs and edible flowers from small spaces by Gayla Trail (Print, Nonfiction 635.7 TRA)
The Modern Witchcraft Guide to Magickal Herbs: Your complete guide to the hidden powers of herbs
Healing Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying, Foraging, and Using Medicinal Plants by Tina Sams (eBook, Nonfiction)
Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs : a beginner’s guide by Rosemary Gladstar (Print, Nonfiction 615.321 GLA HOME REMEDIES/PLANT MEDICINE)
The Native American Herbalism Encyclopedia by American Herbal Academy (Print, Nonfiction 615.321 NAT)
The Hearth Witch’s Kitchen Herbal: Culinary herbs for magic, beauty, and health by Anna Franklin. (Print, Nonfiction 133.43 FRA )
Grow Your Own Herbs: The 40 best culinary varieties for home gardens by Susan Belsinger (Print, Nonfiction 635.7 BEL)
Midwest Medicinal Plants: Identify, harvest, and use 109 wild herbs for health and wellness by Lisa M. Rose (Print and eBook, Nonfiction 615.321 ROS HOME REMEDIES/PLANT MEDICINE)
Starting & Saving Seeds: Grow the perfect vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers for your garden by Julie Thompson-Adolf (Print, Nonfiction 635 THO)
Herbal Adventures: Backyard excursions and kitchen creations for kids and their families by Rachel Jepsen Wolf (Print, Nonfiction 615.321 JEP HOME REMEDIES/PLANT MEDICINE)
The Spice & Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill (Print, Nonfiction 641.338 HEM KITCHEN REFERENCE)
Little Herb Gardens: Simple secrets for glorious gardens–indoors and out by Georgeanne Brennan (Print, Nonfiction 635.7 BRE)
Brother Cadfael’s Herb Garden: An illustrated companion to Medieval plants and their uses by Robin Whiteman et, al. (Print, Nonfiction 615.321 WHI)

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