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Promoting Herbs

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herbs

Cool Stuff About Herbs!

Did you know herbal seeds have been found in pre-historic cave dwellings dating as far back as 500,000 years? The ancient Greeks and Romans crowned their heroes with herbs and the Chinese officially began studying herbs in 2500 B.C. Written records of herbs in China date back as far as 100 B.C. Rare herbs (and spices) were why European explorers first sailed to the Americas — Christopher Columbus was searching for new trade routes when he ran into what they called the “New World.”

Many of the culinary herbs grown in Minnesota are members of two plant families: the mint family and carrot family. The mint family includes basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and the mints. The carrot family includes dill, parsley, and cilantro among others. Culinary herbs are different from vegetables in that they are used in small quantities and are mainly grown for seasoning foods. It doesn’t matter how much or how little space you have — herbs grow just as easily in a pot, a garden, or a window box! You can pick some up with your family at the local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. Try using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample herbs in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.

herbs

In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown herbs from [FARM NAME] in [CITY]. Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

  1. Herbal seeds have been found in pre-historic cave dwellings dating as far back as 500,000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans crowned their heroes with herbs. Who were the first people to officially begin studying herbs?
  2. Unlike vegetables that are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, herbs are primarily use for what?
  3. Many of the culinary herbs grown in Minnesota are members of two plant families. Name the two families.

Trivia Answers

  1. Chinese officially began studying herbs in 2500 B.C. Written records of herbs in China date back as far as 100 B.C.
  2. Culinary herbs are different from vegetables in that they are used in small quantities and are mainly grown for seasoning foods. It doesn’t matter how much or how little space you may have, herbs grow just as easily in a pot, a garden, or a window box!
  3. The mint family and carrot family. The mint family includes basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and the mints of course. The carrot family includes dill, parsley, and cilantro among others.

MS Word version of Newsletter

herbs

History and Origin

  • Most of the herbs that are commonly used in today's kitchens come from plants that were native to the tropical Far East, Eurasia and the Mediterranean.
  • Herbal seeds have been found in pre-historic cave dwellings dating as far back as 500,000 years. Our ancestors have always used herbs as food and as remedies.
  • The Egyptians studied herbs and used them in medicinal and religious functions as far back as 3500 B.C.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans crowned their heroes with dill and laurel.
  • In the United States, an herb garden was a staple of a pioneer homestead. Herbs offered flavoring for food, dyes for fabric and remedies for illness.
  • The Chinese began the organized study of herbs in 2500 B.C. Written records in China have survived, describing the uses of herbs that date from 100 B.C.
  • The discovery by Europeans of America is linked to Western civilization’s search for easier access to rare herbs and spices. Columbus was, in fact, hoping to open trade routes for these substances when he blundered into the West Indies.
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans like Linnaeus and Culpepper codified herbs and their names using Latin nomenclature.
  • Western medicine eventually turned away from “herbalism” and concentrated instead on chemical cures. It is interesting to note, however, that many of the chemicals and medicines that have been developed over the years are in fact based on active ingredients present in herbs and plants.
  • Many culinary herbs grown in Minnesota are members of two plant families: the mint family and carrot family.
  • The mint family, Lamiaceae, includes basil, oregano, marjoram, catnip, all the mints, as well as rosemary, thyme, lavender, summer savory, and sage. All are grown for their aromatic leaves.
  • The carrot family, Apiaceae, includes dill, parsley, chervil, cilantro (also known as coriander), fennel, and lovage. They are all grown for their leaves and some for seeds as well.
  • Common culinary herbs from other plant families include chives (Alliaceae), borage (Boraginaceae), tarragon (Asteraceae), and sorrel (Polygonaceae).

Nutrition

  • Because herbs are used in relatively small amounts, mostly for flavor, they add very little nutritional value.
  • Basil, cilantro and parsley are high in vitamin K even in small amounts.

Did you know…?

  • The green, leafy part of the herb plant is typically used to flavor foods.
  • Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that they are used in small quantities and provide flavor rather than substance to food.
  • To the botanist, herbs are all plants that do not have woody stems.
  • Herbs are very hardy and grow just as easily in a pot, a garden, or a window box.
  • Aromatherapy is the use of volatile plant oils, many of them extracted from herbs, for psychological and physical well-being.
  • While herbs are mainly grown for seasoning foods, they have many other uses. Their oils and fragrances have long been highly valued in the manufacture of cosmetics, perfumes, dyes and potpourris. Herbs have been used as medicine for thousands of years. Medicinal properties of herbs are currently the source of research worldwide.

How to Eat Herbs

  • Herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme, offer seasoning for just about any dish. Fresh herbs can be used in larger quantities than dried herbs and offer a fresher taste.
  • Parsley can be eaten raw but is often used as a garnish.
  • Cilantro can be used raw in salsas. Dill leaves can be used raw in salads. Mint can be tossed in green salads or mixed into soft cheeses. Mint is also used as a flavoring for drinks, fruit platters and frozen desserts.
  • Dill is used to make one of our Minnesota favorites — pickles! Dill also tastes good in soups and sauces.
  • Basil is an herb that is popular in Italian dishes but also goes well with seafood.

Dill:

  • Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the carrot family, is native to southern Europe, and is widely cultivated throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.
  • Dill was used by Egyptian doctors 5000 years ago and traces have been found in Roman ruins in Great Britain. In the Middle Ages, dill was thought to protect against witchcraft.
  • Both the seeds and leaves of dill are widely used in cooking.
  • Dill has also been used to make green dye.
  • The essential oil obtained from dill is used not only for pickles, but also in chewing gums and candy.
  • Dill seeds are very small and very light. It takes more than 10,000 dill seeds to make an ounce.
  • One tablespoon of dill seed contains more calcium than a cup of milk.

Basil:

  • Basil is an annual herb of the mint family.
  • Basil is native to central and tropical Asia and Africa (some say it originated in India).
  • Basil’s name is derived from the Greek basileus meaning “King,” as it was believed to have a royal fragrance.
  • Basil has long been used as an embalming and preserving herb, found in mummies of ancient Egypt. Perhaps because of its embalming usage, basil was also a symbol of mourning.
  • When a Romanian man accepted a sprig of basil from a woman, he was said to be officially engaged.
  • Many varieties of basil have seeds that can germinate after 10 years!
  • In addition to its culinary uses, basil is also used in perfumes, soaps, shampoos and dental preparations.
  • During British colonial days in India, judges would have Hindu witnesses swear on this holy herb.
  • The basil herb enjoys a rich history in folklore. In many cultures it is common to use basil as a symbol for love, holiness, purity, and sanctity.

Cilantro:

  • Cilantro’s origins can be traced to the Mediterranean.
  • Cilantro’s nomenclature is somewhat confusing. The entire plant and the seeds are properly named coriander, while the leaves alone are cilantro.
  • Cilantro is native to southwestern Asia west to North Africa.
  • Cilantro is also referred to as Chinese parsley.
  • Americans are most familiar with cilantro in their salsa and guacamole. However, cilantro and coriander are used all over the world in countless preparations.
  • Unlike most herbs, cilantro is used as a vegetable as well as an herb. Cilantro has been a long time favorite flavoring for making tasty pickled fruits and vegetables, salsa, chutney, confections, liqueurs, stews and soups.
  • Cilantro is a great source of vitamin A and very low in calories, one cup of cilantro contains about five calories.

Parsley:

  • Two thousand years ago in southern Europe parsley was used as medicine. The popularity of parsley rose during the Middle Ages.
  • Parsley is valued as a breath-freshener, due to its high concentration of chlorophyll.
  • The ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred; they used parsley to adorn victors of athletics contests, but also for decorating the tombs of the deceased.
  • There are two types commonly used as an herb, curly leaf and flat leaf. Flat leaf is often referred to as Italian parsley.
  • The Ancient Romans loved parsley. In the first century, Pliny wrote that no salad or sauce should be served without parsley.
  • In The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit "ate some lettuce and some broad beans, then some radishes, and then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley."
  • Two tablespoons of parsley contain 153% of the Recommended Daily Value of Vitamin K.
  • Parsley seed oil is used in shampoo, soap and men’s perfumes.
  • Parsley was used as a remedy for an upset stomach.

The above information was compiled from:

www.plantcare.com
www.herbnet.com
homecooking.about.com
mnherbsociety.net/
www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/vegetables/herbs/
www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/vegetables/growing-herbs-in-minnesota-slides/
www.foodreference.com/html/artbasil.html
www.rocketfarms.com
homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/basilhistory.htm
www.healthdiaries.com
www.foodreference.com/html/fparsley.html
www.foodreference.com/html/art-cilantro.html
www.specialtyproduce.com

herbs

Tasting Poster (433 K PDF)

3-Column Poster (346 K PDF)

Index Card (364 K PDF)

Photos

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basil Basil photo by Brett Olson Renewing the Countryside
bowl of herbs Bowl of Herbs photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
thyme Thyme photo by Brett Olson Renewing the Countryside
variety of herbs Variety of Herbs photo by Kent Lorentzen Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
herbs
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