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BasilA mild herb which combines well with tomatoes, fish, liver, duck and venison. It is at its finest in August, when it can be dried and stored for winter use.
Bay Leaves These may be used for their rather nutty flavour, and go well with sauces and gravies, and casserole dishes, particularly of beef. A bay leaf is one of the necessary ingredients of a bouquet garni.
Bouquet GarniThis consists of a small bunch of herbs tied together either with string, or in a muslin bag, which can be easily removed when the cooking is complete. The usual ingredients are a sprig of thyme, two sprigs of parsley and a bay leaf. Other additions such as basil, marjoram or a crushed clove of garlic, can be added if the dish is improved by so doing.
ChivesOne of the most useful herbs to grow, and best used freshly cut. It combines well with most foods, but its mild onion-like flavour is particularly good with cream cheese and as a garnish to salads, sauces and some white soups. They also blend well in an omelette or with scrambled eggs.
FennelIts fine foliage is attractive in the herb garden. Its flavour is that of aniseed. The feathery leaves, snipped finely, add a piquant touch to salads, or can be blended with butter for savoury spreads. Its main use in the kitchen is for flavouring fish sauces.
GarlicThis is of the same family as the onion, chive and leek, but possesses a most powerful aroma and taste. Its strength is greater when the dish in which it is used is heated. Use sparingly. When a receipe calls for 'a crushed clove of garlic', remove one section of the bulb, chop finely, sprinkle with a little salt and crush flat with the blade of a knife. It is best to keep a special small garlic board or tile for this job, as garlic can impregnate a working surface fairly easily. Garlic is used in soup, fish and meat dishes, and a salad bowl rubbed with the cut surface of a clove gives a pleasant tang to its ingredients.
MarjoramThere are four kinds of this herb, but the one used in the kitchen is called Origanum Marforana. It has a wide variety of uses, but is rather strongly aromatic, so use with discretion. It blends well with pate, sauces, stews, and stuffings, particularly for poultry, and combines with onion very agreeably.
MintWe all know about mint in cooking. Its medicinal properties have been valued for centuries. Nicholas Culpeper, the famous herbalist who died in 1645, 'has this to say about Mentha Viridis: 'It is a herb of Venus. The juice taken in vinegar, stays bleeding, stirs up venery, or bodily lust; two or three branches taken in the juice of four pomegranates, stays the hiccough, vomiting, and allays the choler.' And much, much more! Mrs Beeton herself points out that mint 'has the property of correcting flatulence, hence the custom of using it in pea-soup and with new potatoes'. As well as these well-known uses, try it as one of the ingredients of stuffing for poultry for a change, and remember that a small sprig as a garnish to a citrus fruit dish, such as grape-fruit cocktail, can be very refreshing.
Myrrh or Chervil This is more widely used in French cooking than in English. It tastes rather like parsley and is easy to grow. It can be used in much the same way as a flavouring agent for soups and sauces. It has a pretty leaf, and small sprigs can be used as a garnish to cold dishes and salads.
ParsleyThis obliging herb goes with almost all dishes and provides an attractive garnish with its bright green feathery foliage. If you want to dry it for winter use, gather it when young, blanch it for a minute in boiling water, and let it dry in a hot oven. When dry, rub it through a sieve and put the powder into an airtight jar. They say, in these parts, that if parsley flourishes in the garden then it's a sure sign that the wife rules the house. It is also said of mint!
RosemaryThis is another very strongly aromatic herb and must be used with care. It goes well with mutton and lamb, poultry and game. Pea, spinach, chicken and turtle soups take rosemary well. Always remove rosemary sprigs before serving a dish in which they have been used, and take care that none of the small spiky leaves remain embedded.
SageThe Arabs say, so I am told, that if you want to live for ever you should eat sage every day. This is another strong herb - too strong for me, personally - and should be treated with respect. Ideal with onions, of course, and marrying happily with pork dishes, and in stuffings, particularly of duck and goose. Some people like tangy cheeses, of the cream variety, flavoured with sage.
Tarragon'If you are buying tarragon plants for the garden, make sure you get the variety known as True French', advises Mrs Elizabeth David. This herb is one of the most useful ones, and the aromatic leaves when steeped for a short time in the appropriate liquor, impart their flavour to soups and Sauces. It blends well with chicken, fish and egg dishes, If you want to make your own tarragon vinegar, pick sprigs and place in a bottle of wine vinegar. They can stay in the vinegar indefinitely.
ThymeThere are many varieties of this tiny pungent plant. The one used in the kitchen is Thymus vulgaris, and goes well in stuffings, such as the well-known blend of thyme, parsley and lemon stuffing for poultry. It can be used to advantage in pork dishes, in liver pate and is, of course, one of the ingredients of the bouquet garni. Use sparingly. It is another really strong herb.