Ten Top Herbs for the Kitchen

INCOOKING, dry herbs are a poor substitute for fresh. Many herbs lend themselves to window-box culture, and most thrive in patios close to the kitchen door. Here are 10 of the most useful in the kitchen, with Dr Stuart's observations.

TARRAGON: The Latin name, Artemisia dracunculus, meaning little dragon, refers to its coiled, serpent-like root. Its essential oil is identical to anise, and the chopped leaves are intrinsic to French classic cooking, in creamy chicken and shellfish dishes. Chop into salads, herb omelettes, and use whole stems to flavour vinegar. Do not by mistake grow Russian tarragon: it is a poor, tasteless relation.

CORIANDER: Valued for its seed (powdered in Indian curries), it stimulates the gastric juices. Although it has been cultivated for 3,000 years, the leaves have only recently become accepted in British cooking, thanks to the fashion for Thai and other oriental cuisines where it is a basic flavouring. It can be sown outdoors in early summer, and germinates slowly.

PARSLEY: The most used herb in the British kitchen although these days relegated to the role of a garnish. It stimulates the appetite and is an anti-flatulent. It also masks the odour of garlic on the breath. French flat-leafed parsley has a better flavour than the English curly leaf. Likes a good, moist soil.

THYME: Contains many oils, of which thymol is a powerful antiseptic that works in the gastro-intestinal tract, thus medicating your food as you eat it. Much used in medicine as an antiseptic. Used in stews and omelettes it confers the instant taste of the Mediterranean. An old trick is to marinate pork chops with thyme, garlic, bayleaf and wine for several days in the fridge to reproduce the gamey flavour of wild boar. There many varieties of thyme, the culinary one is Thymus vulgaris and it can be grown easily in a sunny spot.

ROSEMARY: From the Latin Ros Maris, dew of the sea. The flowers are dew-like and the plant likes a seaside habitat. The oil is highly aromatic with tonic, diuretic and antiseptic properties. Externally, the oil is an effective insect repellent. It makes a good gargle and soothing embrocation. In cooking, it is pervasively strong, but wonderful with grilled meat or stuck into lamb with garlic slivers. Stick a cutting in well-drained soil in a sheltered position and it will easily take.

SAGE: There are some 750 species of sage (Salvia, from salvere, to be in good health) but the common one is Salvia officinalis. Its powerful aroma is useful in cooking to mask other smells, especially liver. Its strong antiseptic properties combined with onion make it a useful ingredient for stuffing a bird, inhibiting the growth of bacteria inside. Very pungent and a little goes a long way. Grows easily in this country.

SWEET MARJORAM: Aromatic herb used forcenturies in northern Europe to flavour meat dishes; the Germans call it Wurstkraut (sausage herb). It is the tamer cousin of the wild marjoram, otherwise known as oregano, which perfumes Mediterranean hillsides. Both forms have an affinity with tomato sauce. It has both antiseptic and digestive properties.

MINT: Needs no introduction. Spearmint is the common or garden variety; its beneficial volatile oils have stimulant, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic, anti-flatulent, appetite-promoting properties. Much prized in mint jellies, mint tea and mint sauce (borrowed from the Infidels by the Crusaders). Mint leaves are essential to Middle Eastern salads, and are mixed with other herbs with bulgar grain to make tabbouleh.

BAY: Sweet laurel - many are the errata slips in cookery books translated from European languages where laurier has been rendered as laurel, a leaf poisonous in cooking. Bay is antiseptic and stimulates the digestion. It is an essential ingredient in a bouquet garni along with parsley, thyme and leek. Bay has a sweet smell which masks less pleasant odours, and is therefore useful in making fish and other stocks. It grows freely in the garden and needs cutting back.

BASIL: Basilikon phuton, the kingly herb of the Greeks. The spicy, peppery scent of basil is due to the essential oil, estragol, which indicates a relationship with tarragon (estragon in French). Medicinal properties are as a comforter and sedative. It flourishes best in hot climates; in Italy it is used in salads, tomato sauces and in pesto. Grown under glass in Britain, it develops aroma but has only a passing flavour of the Mediterranean herb.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...