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7 Herbs and Vegetables - JANE M. RENFREW AND HELEN SANDERSON
98 • The Cultural History of Plants
Arugula/rocket (Eruca vesicaria subsp. sativa). USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown.
1913. Illustrated ﬂora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2, p. 192.
Basil Ocimum basilicum
Basil is native to tropical Asia and Africa and has been cultivated in Europe for centuries. The leaves
are used fresh in cooking being added to soups, salads, especially tomato salad, and meat and ﬁsh
dishes. Fresh basil is an essential ingredient in pesto sauce, made by pounding fresh leaves in a mortar with salt, olive oil, and garlic. Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, or walnuts may also be added, and
Herbs and Vegetables • 99
the resulting sauce is stirred into minestrone soup or hot pasta. Thai basil (O. × citriodorum “Thai”)
is an annual native to Thailand and Burma. It has a darker leaf than common basil and a slight
anise ﬂavor. In Thailand it is used in salads and as a garnish.
Bay Laurus nobilis
The bay tree is native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. It is the aromatic leaves which are valued for their ﬂavoring properties. The Greeks and Romans made laurel leaf crowns as symbols of
wisdom and glory for their athletes and emperors. In cooking the dried leaves are used in meat
pâtés and stews (drying reduces bitterness of the leaves) and are a key ingredient in bouquet garni.
They are also used for packing licorice and dried ﬁgs to discourage weevils.
Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
The red berries of this small shrub were cooked with meat as a seasoning for the broth by North
American Indians. It grows in Canada and as far south in the United States as New Jersey and
Wisconsin, as well as in the northern latitudes of Europe and Asia.
Bergamot, Beebalm Monarda didyma
The bergamots are native to North America. The whole plant is pleasantly fragrant, and it is popular with bees on account of the quantity of nectar to be found in its blossom. It was used by the
North American Indians and the early settlers as Oswego tea, which tastes like a scented China tea
and is most refreshing when taken cold. The plant was brought to Europe and is cultivated as an
ornamental garden plant. M. ﬁstulosa, or wild bergamot, is used in herbal teas. Neither should be
confused with the bergamot tree, Citrus bergamia, which yields the oils used in Earl Grey tea.
Borage Borago ofﬁcinalis
Borage is indigenous to the Mediterranean area but has been cultivated in Britain and North America,
with a long history of use as a medicinal herb and used by beekeepers to attract bees and ﬂavor
honey. Young fresh borage leaves are rich in vitamin C and can be used in salads. The pretty blue
Borage (Borago ofﬁcinalis). USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated
ﬂora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3, p. 93.
100 • The Cultural History of Plants
Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) Joe F. Duft @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland ﬂora: Field ofﬁce guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento, CA.
ﬂowers can be candied and used for decoration. The ﬂowers and leaves also make an attractive
addition to a wine and fruit cup when freshly picked.
See: Gathering Food from the Wild, p. 38
Burnet Sanguisorba minor, S. ofﬁcinalis
This is the name for two common European herbs that bear dark crimson or deep brown ﬂowers, hence the name, which is derived from the French word brunette. Salad burnet, Sanguisorba minor, is the species usually cultivated in gardens. It is native to the Mediterranean
countries, Asia Minor, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Middle Asia. Today it is cultivated sporadically in Europe, including Britain, Germany, and France, and in North America and Asia. The
leaves have a pleasant cucumber ﬂavor and have been eaten since classical Greek times and
were commonly used in salads from the 15th to 19th centuries. In recent times they have been
used as ensalada italiana in Spain, especially in Catalonia. The leaves are also added to cold
drinks in the same way as the better-known borage. The upper parts of the plant and its roots
have been used in folk medicine for digestive disorders. In arid areas it is occasionally cultivated as fodder for sheep.
Great burnet, Sanguisorba ofﬁcinalis, is a larger plant of similar uses. It originates from the temperate zones of Eurasia and North America and is cultivated mainly in Asia and Japan. The young
leaves are used for salads and are also served with other vegetables or as a spice for soups. In folk
medicine, extracts of the roots are used in Russia, China, and Japan as an antiseptic.
Capers Capparis spinosa
Capers are the unopened ﬂower buds of a spiny trailing shrub, which occurs in the Mediterranean
region and in North Africa and Asia Minor. It is cultivated mainly in Mediterranean areas, but also
in Tibet, India, and Southeast Asia. The biggest producers are Italy and Spain. The plant is sprawling and is covered in thorns, though highly domesticated races without thorns are also cultivated.
As the buds develop rapidly, they must be harvested daily which increases the costs of the product.
The buds are pickled in vinegar or preserved in salt and have been used since at least the time of the
ancient Greeks as a condiment to add a salty-sour ﬂavor to sauces (e.g., tartare sauce), cheeses,
salad dressings, stews, pasta sauces, and various other meat and ﬁsh dishes. The fresh buds are not
Herbs and Vegetables • 101
eaten, because the characteristic slightly bitter ﬂavor is due to the presence of capric acid which is
only developed by pickling. Pickled mature fruits are also eaten in southern Europe, known as cornichons de câprier. The bark of the root was used medicinally in classical times, and it is still considered a medicinal plant in India.
See: Spices, pp. 157–8
Chamomile, Roman camomile Chamaemilum nobile (syn. Anthemis nobilis)
Chamomile is native to southern Europe and northern Africa and grows wild as a perennial in parts
of Britain. It yields an essential oil used to ﬂavor ice cream. The ﬂower heads are used to make Chamomile tea. German chamomile, Matricaria recutita, also of the Asteraceae family, has a wider
native distribution in Europe and is naturalized in North America. It is used in similar ways. Both
species are grown commercially in Europe and the former USSR.
See: Plants as Medicines, p. 213
Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium
A native of Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and southern Russia, chervil was introduced and spread
throughout Europe by the Romans. Chervil leaves have a slightly sweet, aniseed taste, and are used
fresh or dried in France in omelettes, soups, and salads.
Chives Allium schoenoprasum
Chives grow wild in most of Europe, in Russia as far east as Siberia, in Canada, and the northern
part of the United States. Although used in antiquity, the herb was probably not cultivated until
the Middle Ages. The chopped young leaves have a fresh onion ﬂavor which is delicious in salads,
in omelettes, and as a garnish for boiled new potatoes. Its purple ﬂowers are sometimes added
Comfrey Symphytum ofﬁcinale
This plant is native to Europe, western Siberia, Caucasus, and North America. Since ancient times it
has been used as a medicinal plant, but it has also been used sporadically as a ﬂavoring herb, particularly as a potherb, for homemade wine, and for butter in Bavaria. Both the leaves and stems have
been eaten and are usually boiled, and it can be eaten like spinach as a vegetable. In Bavaria the
leaves are dipped in batter and fried. The stems can be blanched by earthing them up, which makes
the astringent ﬂavor milder. Although comfrey has been advocated as a health food for humans,
cultivation has mainly been for animal fodder.
Costmary, Alecost, Bible leaf Tanacetum balsamita subsp. balsamita (syn. Chrysanthemum majus)
Costmary is native to the Near East and was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.
By the 16th century it was common in gardens in Britain though it was probably ﬁrst introduced by
the Romans. The colonists took it to North America where it is common in the eastern and midwest states. It gets its American name, bibleleaf, from the long leaves being used as page markers in
the bibles of the early colonists. It is used for ﬂavoring ale (beer) and can be used for ﬂavoring
soups, game, poultry, veal, and stufﬁng. It has a soft balsam ﬂavor and should be used sparingly in
cooking. The related C. coronarium (crown daisy, Shingiku, or chop suey green) has piquant leaves
which may be used in salads or cooked in Oriental cuisine.
102 • The Cultural History of Plants
Curry leaf Murraya koenigii
This species grows wild in much of South and Southeast Asia, and it is cultivated in India, Sri Lanka
and Southeast Asia, Australia, the Paciﬁc islands, and Africa. The small, shiny, pungent leaves
are used for ﬂavoring in cookery, in curry dishes, and in many kinds of chutney in south India,
Sri Lanka, and in some parts of Southeast Asia. The leaves are used in a similar way to the bay leaf in
western countries and are employed in fresh, dried, and powdered forms. When they are used fresh,
they are fried ﬁrst to make them brown and crisp before adding to the dish. When dried, the leaves
retain their aroma and can be bought either whole or powdered.
See: Spices, p. 162
Dandelion Taraxacum ofﬁcinale
The dandelion is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced by European colonists to North
America. The young leaves of this familiar wild plant can be eaten raw in salads or tossed in melted
butter as a vegetable or cooked as a potherb. The ﬂowers are used to make dandelion wine and the
leaves to ﬂavor herb beers. The dried root can be ground and roasted as a substitute for coffee.
See: Caffeine, Alcohol, and Sweeteners p. 177
Daun salam, Indonesian bay leaf Syzygium polyanthum
This tree is native to Malaysia, Indonesia (Java and Sumatra), and Thailand, and has edible ﬂowers and
fruits. The leaves are used as a ﬂavoring and play an important part in Indonesian cuisine, where a single leaf placed in the cooking pan gives a subtle aromatic ﬂavor to dishes. Its leaves can be used dried or
powdered. It is used, for example, in nasi goring (fried rice), and its role is generally compared to the
curry leaf in Indian cuisine. Young leaves are also frequently cooked like greens, often with meat.
Dill Anethum graveolens
Dill is native to the Mediterranean countries and southern Russia and is now cultivated widely
in Europe, India, and North America. Dill has been used since classical times in herbalism to
aid digestion. The leaves and seeds have a similar ﬂavor, reminiscent of caraway, though the seed
Dill (Anethum graveolens).USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated ﬂora
of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2, p. 634.
Herbs and Vegetables • 103
has a more pronounced ﬂavor. Its principal culinary use is in pickling cucumbers (dill pickles)
when the whole plant together with green seeds are used and are also used in sauerkraut. In parts of
northern Europe dill sauce (made with leaves or “dill weed”) is served with ﬁsh. Dill goes well in
celery or zucchini soups. Dill seed is used as a condiment and can be used to ﬂavor root vegetables,
cakes, and sweets. The feathery leaves have a more delicate ﬂavor; they should be used raw or added
at the end of cooking time to keep their ﬂavor.
See: Spices, p. 163
Elecampane Inula helenium
Elecampane is native to Asia and parts of Europe. In the past the roots of elecampane were used in
Roman cooking for sauces or salted were served as an hors d’oeuvre or at the end of a meal to aid
digestion. From Medieval times onwards they were candied and used in confectionary. The aromatic leaves have also been used as a potherb.
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel is a native perennial of southern Europe and the Caucasus and is widely naturalized in
Europe and North America. The leaves were very popular as a herb with the Romans. The leaves
and seeds both have a strong anise ﬂavor. Fennel leaves have been used in Britain for centuries with
fresh or salted ﬁsh, as fennel sauce, or chopped in mayonnaise or in stufﬁng. In Italy it is used to ﬂavor pork. Seeds are used to ﬂavor bread, pastries, confectionary, liqueurs, and ﬁsh dishes. They contain an essential oil whose main constituent is anethole. The cultivated form, Florence fennel (see
following, subsp. vulgare var. azoricum), has an enlarged, sweet tasting leaf base or bulb that is
cooked as a vegetable or sliced raw in salads.
See: Gathering Food from the Wild, p. 40; Spices, p. 163; Plants as Medicines, p. 214
Fitweed, Shado beni Eryngium foetidum
The origin of this species is not known, but it is native to Central and South America, from
southern Mexico to Panama, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil, and from Cuba to Trinidad. It has
been introduced into Florida and the Old World tropics where it has naturalized in many places.
It was introduced to Southeast Asia by the Chinese as a substitute for coriander, both as a garnish and in cooking. Although it is collected from the wild or gardens in most places, it is also
cultivated in South America and occasionally elsewhere in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the
Philippines and Japan. The leaves are aromatic and smell like coriander. Its fresh leaves are used
as a ﬂavoring in soups, curries, stews, rice, and ﬁsh dishes. The tender, young leaves are eaten raw
or cooked as a vegetable. It also has many medicinal uses throughout its distribution and has been
used as an aphrodisiac.
Garden angelica Angelica archangelica
Angelica grows wild over much of Asia and Europe and is cultivated in Belgium, Hungary, and
Germany. The young green stems are commonly candied and used to decorate cakes and puddings.
In some countries it is eaten as a green vegetable, and sometimes the young shoots are blanched and
used in salads. It has been added to rhubarb and to marmalade as a ﬂavoring. It has been used to
ﬂavor drinks such as vermouth, chartreuse, and especially gin.
104 • The Cultural History of Plants
Garlic Allium sativum
Garlic was cultivated in Mesopotamia and Egypt in antiquity (remains of garlic bulbs have been
found at Deir el Medina and in the tomb of Tutankhamun for example), and it was well known to
the Greeks and Romans. The Romans used it to strengthen laborers and to make their soldiers more
courageous; but Horace, in his third Epode, describes how infuriated he was to be given some by
Maecenas at a feast:
“If ever man with impious hand
Strangled an aged parent,
May he eat garlic, deadlier than hemlock!
(Ah, what hardy stomachs reapers have!)
What is this venom savaging my frame?
Has viper’s blood, unknown to me,
Been brewed into these herbs. . . .”
The common name is Anglo-Saxon in origin. Today garlic is cultivated widely around the world,
the best-ﬂavored bulbs coming from warm countries. The bulbs are broken up into individual
cloves for culinary use. The strong, onion-like, pungent ﬂavor is not to everyone‘s taste, and it
should be used in very small quantities if it is not to overpower other ﬂavors in cooking. It can also
be used raw in garlic butter as a dressing for cooked meat.
See: Plants as Medicines, p. 219
Gallant soldier, Guascas Galinsoga parviﬂora
This species is native to South America, particularly the Andean region and Colombia, and has
naturalized into parts of North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia to become a cosmopolitan weed.
In its native countries it is considered of culinary importance. The steamed young tops of the plant
can be eaten as a vegetable. In Colombia it can be bought dried and ground into a green powder
which adds a delicious ﬂavor to soups and stews. It also makes good fodder for animals.
See: Gathering Food from the Wild, p. 31
Horseradish Armoracia rusticana
Horseradish is probably indigenous to the east and southeastern Europe, where it has been cultivated since antiquity, and spread to other parts of Europe in medieval times. Today, it is cultivated
in many places within the temperate zones of the Old and New World, mainly in Europe and North
America. Although it is cultivated on a larger scale in Europe, North America, and South Africa, it
is mostly grown by smallholders and in home gardens for both culinary and medicinal uses.
The roots, when grated, yield a volatile oil which is very pungent. Its pungent taste is due to the
volatile essential oils similar to those of mustard, which are lost in cooking. The peeled and grated
roots are used fresh to make a hot, spicy sauce by mixing with salt, vinegar, and oil and are eaten
with meat and ﬁsh dishes. In Britain it is most famously served with roast beef. The leaves are used
medicinally. The hot, ﬂavored young leaves are one of the bitter herbs used for the Jewish Passover.
Hyssop Hyssopus ofﬁcinalis
Hyssop is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia and has naturalized in North America. It is
an attractive shrub with blue ﬂowers that is chieﬂy cultivated for its medicinal properties. The aromatic, slightly bitter ﬂavor of hyssop counteracts fatty, oily meat and ﬁsh. A few chopped leaves go
Herbs and Vegetables • 105
well with stufﬁngs or sausages, or they can be added to salads, stewed fruit, or fruit pies. The tops
are used to ﬂavor liqueurs such as Chartreuse.
Lemon balm Melissa ofﬁcinalis
Lemon balm is native to southern Europe and has been in cultivation for the past two thousand years.
It was brought to Britain by the Romans. The leaves, which have a pleasant lemon ﬂavor, are
used in salads and added to cool drinks and wine cups. Chopped leaves can be added to
omelettes. In Belgium and Holland they are used when pickling herrings and eels. It is the basic
ingredient of Melissa cordial, eau-de-melisse des carmes, and Benedictine liqueur. It is much loved
Lemon verbena, Lemon beebrush Aloysia citrodora
A native of South and Central America, this deciduous shrub was introduced to Europe in the
18th century by Spanish explorers. Its sweetly lemon-scented leaves are used chopped in seasonings
or to ﬂavor ﬁsh, poultry, jams, jellies, and puddings. The leaves also make a refreshing tea.
See: Fragrant Plants, p. 219
Lovage Levisticum ofﬁcinale
Lovage is native to southern Europe (a related plant, Ligusticum scoticum, grows wild in northern
Britain and on the Atlantic coasts of North America). It was used by the Greeks and Romans to aid
digestion. The seeds, leaves, and leafstems have a strong, earthy, celery ﬂavor and are chieﬂy used to
ﬂavor soups and stews. It is particularly useful in vegetarian dishes, with rice, vegetable seasonings,
and nut roasts. Its stems can be used in salads or candied like angelica. The seeds are used on bread
or cheese biscuits.
Makrut lime, Kafﬁr lime Citrus hystrix
This species of Citrus is native to tropical Southeast Asia, but is now grown throughout Southeast
Asia, Central America, and the Mascarene and Hawaiian Islands for its leaves and fruit juice, which
are used as a ﬂavoring. The leaves are a more common ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes and are
particularly ubiquitous in Thai cuisine. It is usual to tear the lime leaves before adding them to the
cooking pot and to remove them once the dish is cooked. The leaves are used both fresh and dried
in soups, curries, sauces, and gravies. Usually sold fresh in the native countries, dried whole and
powdered leaves of makrut lime can also be found in Asian and western supermarkets. The dried or
candied peels and the juice of the fruits also serve as a ﬂavoring, and essential oils obtained from the
leaves and fruit peel are utilized in the cosmetics industry.
Marsh mallow Althaea ofﬁcinalis
The native distribution of this species extends from the Middle Asian steppes through the Ukraine,
the Balkans, and the Mediterranean region. From the Atlantic coast of Europe it reached southern
England, the Netherlands, and central Europe. Although its leaves are edible, the main use of the
plant is its roots, which yield a mucilaginous substance which is the traditional basis for the sweet
confection known as marshmallow, but it has now been almost completely replaced by gum arabic.
It was formerly cultivated in France, Italy, Germany, Balkan, Hungary, and southern parts of Russia;
however, in recent years cultivation has decreased. The roots of this species have been used medicinally, and in India the leaves are eaten as a green vegetable.
106 • The Cultural History of Plants
Milfoil, Yarrow Achillea millefolium
This plant is native to Europe but is now widely naturalized in North America, New Zealand, and
Australia. It has pungent, strong-ﬂavored leaves used in salads and soups, and a tisane is also made
from the plant, and it has been used to ﬂavor beef. Most commonly, this species has been used as a
medicinal plant. It has also been used as a substitute for tobacco, nutmeg, cinnamon, and hops.
See: Plants as Medicines, p. 218
Mint Mentha spp.
There are a number of different species of mint found, but they hybridize easily and may be difﬁcult to
identify botanically. Mint was used by the Greeks and Romans for its scent; for the Athenians in particular it indicated strength as they used to rub it on their arms to make them stronger. The Romans
are said to have brought mint to Britain and to have introduced mint sauce to British cuisine. The following are among the most common wild mints that have contributed to cultivated forms.
Water mint (Mentha aquatica) is a strongly-ﬂavored mint found in very damp conditions. It was
crossed with spearmint (M. spicata) to give rise to the hybrid peppermint (M. × piperita). It is
believed to have been used and grown since at least Roman times. In the Middle Ages it was a popular strewing herb known as menastrum.
Cultivated varieties of peppermint, known as black peppermint with dark stems and white peppermint with green stems, are grown chieﬂy for the production of peppermint oil which is mainly
used in the manufacture of sweets and candies. Peppermint oil contains menthol which has anesthetic properties and produces a cool sensation in the mouth. It is also used in the production of
peppermint-ﬂavored liqueurs such as crème de menthe. Pliny says that the Greeks and Romans
crowned themselves with peppermint at their feasts, and that their cooks ﬂavored both sauces and
wines with it.
Pennyroyal (M. pulegium) is a low-growing species of mint that grows wild in damp, shady parts
of temperate Europe and Asia. It has a pungent peppermint smell and a sharp taste. It was used by
the Romans to drive away ﬂeas and is often mentioned in Anglo-Saxon herbals as a cure for whooping cough, asthma, and indigestion. It is an essential ﬂavoring herb in black pudding, the English
north country delicacy. It was also used to make pennyroyal tea, an old-fashioned remedy for colds.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata).USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated
ﬂora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3, p. 149.
Herbs and Vegetables • 107
The well-known cultivars of round-leaved mint M. rotundifolia, apple mint, Bowles’ mint,
and pineapple mint are amongst the best-ﬂavored of all the culinary mints. Spearmint (M. spicata)
is native to the Mediterranean and was probably introduced to Britain by the Romans. It has
been grown in America for well over two centuries. It is the commonest form of mint grown in
gardens, and there are a number of different varieties based on the shape and color of the leaves,
the color of the stem, and the hairiness of the plant. As with other forms of mint it is inclined to
spread vigorously in cultivation. Gerard says of it, “The smell of Mint does stir up the minde
and the taste to a greedy desire of meate.” It was also thought to prevent milk from curdling.
This form of mint is used in British cooking to ﬂavor new potatoes and peas and to make mint
sauce, traditionally served with lamb. It is also much used in the Levant, Middle East, and in
India as a ﬂavoring.
The ﬂowers and buds of mountain mint, Koellia virginiana, were used by North American
Indians to ﬂavor meat and soups.
See: Plants as Medicines, pp. 215–6; Fragrant Plants, pp. 249–50
Mitsuba, Japanese parsley Cryptotaenia japonica
This species is native to far eastern Russia, Japan, Korea, and China. It is cultivated in Japan,
Korea, China, and occasionally Southeast Asia and North America as a culinary herb. The main
parts used are the leaves, the green stems, and the highly-prized blanched white stems, which
look similar to coriander but have a milder ﬂavor. Mitsuba comes from two main varieties, kansai
(green) and kanto (whiter). In Japan, great care is taken in its cultivation and to techniques such
as winter and summer blanching to make the stems more tender. It has a similar role in Japan to
parsley in western countries and coriander in most other Asian countries, with a wide range of
uses. These are eaten, fresh or blanched, to season clear and ﬁsh soups and a wide range of
Japanese dishes. They should never be cooked for more than a couple of minutes or the ﬂavor
is lost. The seeds are also used as a seasoning. The plant has been widely employed for its
Mustards: Black mustard Brassica nigra, Brown mustard B. juncea,
White mustard Sinapis alba
The condiment mustard is based on the seeds of these three plants of the cabbage family. Black
mustard has been in cultivation for more than two thousand years and is native to Europe and
Asia and has become naturalized in North America. It was the main ingredient of mustard
until World War II, but because it sheds its seeds readily when ripe it is unsuited to mechanical
harvesting and has now been largely replaced by brown mustard whose seed is not so strongly
ﬂavored. Black mustard is still grown in areas where hand harvesting persists. White mustard
(known as yellow mustard in the United States) is the mustard of “mustard and cress.” It is
used in American mixed mustards and to some extent in English mustard but is forbidden in
The young leaves of all mustard varieties can be eaten. In Europe and Asia black mustard is cultivated for its young leaves, eaten raw as salad or cooked as a potherb. Brown mustard, known as
mustard greens, is also eaten in young tender form as a salad green, or cooked in soups and stews.
Mizuna or Japanese mustard (Brassica juncea var. japonica) has a mild, sweet earthy ﬂavour and is a
common component of mesclun salad.
See: Spices, p. 165
108 • The Cultural History of Plants
Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus
Nasturtium seeds were ﬁrst brought to Europe from Peru by the Spanish in the 16th century.
The succulent leaves, buds, and ﬂowers have a sharp, peppery taste and can be added to salads.
The unripe fruits can be pickled like capers but should only be eaten in small quantities.
Parsley Petroselinum crispum
Parsley is one of the best-known and most widely grown herbs. In England and America the curlyleaved varieties are most popular; elsewhere the plain, ﬂat-leaved forms are favored, and they do
have a better ﬂavor. The Greeks used it to make victory wreaths to crown the athletes at the
Isthmian Games and for offerings at the tombs of the dead. The Romans were the ﬁrst to use it for
ﬂavoring food. It is native to the Mediterranean region and was introduced into Britain in the
16th century and later to the United States. The Hamburg variety is grown for its enlarged ﬂeshy
taproot and was introduced to Britain from Holland in 1727 by Miller. Fresh or dried leaves are
used, ﬁnely chopped, as ﬂavorings for sauces, soups, seasonings, rissoles, and mince, and sprinkled
over vegetables and salads.
Poke root Phytolacca decandra
This is regarded as one of the most important of indigenous North American plants, with the plant
being used as a dye and the dried root used in many traditional herbal remedies. It is now also common in the Mediterranean region. The young shoots are used as a good substitute for asparagus,
and poultry are very happy to eat the berries (hence the common name pigeon berry), although
eating too many can give their ﬂesh an unpleasant ﬂavor. In Portugal the juice of the berries was
used to color port wines, but this was discontinued as it affected the ﬂavor. As the plant matures the
whole plant becomes poisonous.
Rosemary Rosemarinus ofﬁcinalis
Rosemary is native to the rocky limestone hillsides around the Mediterranean and was introduced
to Britain by the Romans. It is fairly tender and needs winter protection in the northern parts of
Britain and the United States. Sprigs of leaves are used in cooking lamb, stews, and strong game
and have a camphor-like ﬂavor. Leaves may be infused in milk for sweet puddings and custards.
Rosemary was one of the most popular herbs for ﬂavoring ale.
Rue Ruta graveolens
Rue is native to the Mediterranean region, although it has naturalized elsewhere now. It was cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a spice and medicinal plant and was also commonly used during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In Britain, it grew wild in parts of
Lancashire and Yorkshire in 1597, possibly as a remnant of Roman cultivation. The leaves are
blue-green and ﬂeshy and have a strong aroma and bitter ﬂavor. In the kitchen it was used as an
occasional ﬂavoring to soups and stews and was often pickled to use as a relish with meat.
Today, the plant is cultivated in several countries of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. The bitter pungent leaves are used, fresh or dried, in small quantities for salads and as a ﬂavoring for
bread, meat, vinegars, and various dishes. It is also used to impart bitterness to wines. Rue oil,
obtained by distillation of the leaves, is mainly produced in Spain and Portugal. It is used as a
spice and perfume.