According to TheSpruce.com, basil had its origins in India, or perhaps even further east. This flavorful herb has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, in part for culinary reasons – but not exclusively so. Records from 807 A.D. suggest that this herb was already being used in the Hunan region of China. In Ancient Greece, it was known as “basilikon phuton, meaning magnificent, royal, or kingly herb.” In Ancient India, basil was part of their traditional medicinal system.
Cultures over the past several thousand years have attributed symbolic meanings to basil, as well, including the following:
Today, of course, fresh basil in used in countless ways in culinary dishes, one of the most versatile herbs. Basil is a core element of classic pesto sauce, which adds marvelous flavor to pasta dishes, fish dishes, sandwiches and more. It’s fast and easy to infuse oil with basil – and then the possibilities for this basil-oil are endless. Chefs are using basil in wide-ranging ways in soups, salads, sauces, egg dishes, pizzas and so much more. And, as delicious as basil is on the plate, it is also marvelous in the glass, such as with berry-based cocktails or mocktails. And, basil ice cream, anyone?
At The Chef’s Garden, we love fresh basil so much that we offer an entire array of varieties and sizes, each with its own unique flavor, fragrant aroma, visual appeal and layer of texture.
Cilantro, being the leaves of the coriander plant, is a member of the parsley family. Taking one more look at TheSpruce.com, we see that the coriander plant dates back to at least 5000 BC, perhaps originally from the Mediterranean area and regions in southwestern Europe. Seeds from this plant were put into tombs in Ancient Egypt, and Sanskrit writings refer to coriander – and this plant even made the Old Testament: “And the house of Israel called the name there of Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus, 16:31).
This plant was growing in the New World, specifically Massachusetts, by the early 1600s. It was in fact one of the first herbs that American colonists grew.
Chef’s today use fresh cilantro in multiple ways, with its assertive flavor and pungent aroma, to spice up creative dishes. From making a unique green sauce to adding interesting flavor to rice dishes, cilantro is one of a kind. This unique herb is used in multiple cuisines from around the globe, including Chinese, Middle Eastern, Latin American, Mexican, Caribbean, Southeastern Asian and more. How might it spice up your sour cream? Your salad dressing and/or stir fry? You can use fresh cilantro in salsas, pesto, sauces and chutney. It pairs well with a remarkable number of foods, from tomatoes to avocado, and from beans, cheese and chicken to peppers, pork and rice.
Some chefs describe this flavor as warm/nutty/spicy, while others taste tangy citrus-like flavor. Still others describe it as an assertive sage-citrus taste. Others, salty/lemony. Here’s more information about our sustainably farmed fresh cilantro. How would you describe its taste?
Then there’s the marvelous mint plant! OurHerbGarden.com shares how mint played a significant role in ancient Greek mythology, where the wife of Pluto (Proserpine) transformed her rival into . . . yep, into a mint plant. So, the Latin name of “Metha” and the Greek name of “Minthe” both represent “metamorphosed beauty.” Plus, people in Ancient Greece would scent their arms with essence of mint.
Mint also appears in the Bible. In the New Testament (Matthew 23:23), we learn that Pharisees tithed by giving mint, indicating it was a prized herb, indeed.
Romans introduced mint to England and, by the 14th century, it was used to whiten teeth. The Pilgrims likely brought mint to the New World, according to a 17th-century English traveler.
CookingLight.com does an excellent job of discussing the use of mint in culinary dishes and glasses, saying, “Fresh mint is great to have on hand and adds an extra dimension to dishes. Its clean, refreshing taste and cooling effect make it a welcome addition to a number of sweet and spicy dishes and drinks. The oft-overlooked herb, mint isn't a flavor solely reserved for gum. Fresh and sprightly, mint is bursting with fragrance and taste. It works well in sweet and savory dishes, and tastes great whether hot or cold.”
Mixologists, you might enjoy this list of mint cocktail recipes for summer by ImbibeMagazine.com. What fresh, unique twists have you created? We’d love to hear!
At The Chef’s Garden, we sustainably grow a wide array of fresh mint varieties. If you know which varieties you want, in which sizes, we’ll hand-harvest your order. If you want to experiment and then reorder your favorites, consider our Fresh Mint Sampler.
The University of Arizona offers insight into the history of oregano, sharing how this herb likely originated in Ancient Greece, with the word “oregano” meaning “joy of the mountain.” (Isn’t that lovely?) These Greeks created oregano creams from the leaves, using them to soothe aching muscles and treat sores. Traditional Chinese doctors used these leaves for multiple healing purposes. Eventually, cooks in Italy and Greece, along with other countries, realized how wonderful oregano tasted in tomato-based sauces, as well as when paired with garlic.
As oregano made its way to the New World, people in Mexico began prizing this herb, using it in chili-based dishes. It took until post-World-War II years for cooks in the United States to begin to recognize its value, though, in large part because that’s when returning GIs shared their love of pizza with friends and family.
You can use oregano in your chicken and lamb dishes, in seafood, when making burgers or creating a pesto. This fresh herb pairs well with beans, in omelets and when sprinkled onto salads. Use oregano in soups, sauces and curries, and in pasta dishes and stuffing. This is an ideal addition to unique vinaigrettes and as a replacement for the similar but sweeter marjoram whenever you want a more potent taste.
We really appreciate the suggestion made by McCormick.com: “Steam, sauté or grill your veggies, it doesn’t matter – oregano goes great any way you cook them. Summer vegetables like zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes have a longstanding love affair with oregano.”
You can find the fresh oregano you need at The Chef’s Garden, with our aromatic Greek Oregano offering up a spicy-peppery punch. We’ll hand harvest!
The origins of parsley have been blurred by time, although, if legend is to be believed, the first leaf burst through the soil at the exact spot where Archemorus, an Ancient Greek hero, was eaten by snakes. Greeks used to pick parsley to create crowns that were awarded to winners of sports games. In the Hebrew celebration of Passover, parsley symbolizes spring and rebirth.
The Emperor Charlemagne, who united much of Europe during the early part of the Middle Ages, and Catherine de Medici – a queen of France from 1547 to 1559 – both grew parsley in their gardens. It’s possible that de Medici is responsible for the spread of this herb when she brought it from Italy to France. There’s even more history about parsley at TheEpicentre.com.
So much pairs well with parsley that it’s an in-demand herb used in salads and sauces, soups and stews, egg dishes, pasta dishes, dishes with lamb or chicken, veal or pork, in pesto and with fresh vegetables ranging from potatoes to parsnips. Its flavor blends well with tomato, with lemon, with cheeses and so much more – and that doesn’t even begin to mention how well parsley pairs with garlic, and the deliciousness of parsley-enhanced butter. Fresh parsley is an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, as well, a crucial flavor in tabbouleh, stuffed grapes leaves and much more.\
For a surprising touch of color, consider mild-flavored pink tipped parsley with its salty, earthy taste with bitter notes. Texture is tender, somewhat succulent and very nice, with green leaves edged with pink. Here are all the varieties of fresh parsley being sustainably farmed by The Chef’s Garden.
People throughout the centuries have valued sage, with TheHerbalAcademy.com sharing how this wonderful herb originated in the Mediterranean. Romans added it to their food to help digestion, with one of Nero’s doctors calling sage one of the most important herbs. The French made sage tea and, in 812, Emperor Charlemagne planted sage in Germany, knowing its importance in trade and, likely, also for medicinal reasons.
Ancient Greeks and Romans believed sage could improve their memories and, in England, herbal specialists thought that how well sage grew in your garden could foretell how well your business would perform. Charles the Great? Well, he ran a “reputable medical school” and it was said he appreciated sage the most. In the Middle Ages, monks grew fresh sage in the gardens of their monasteries.
Traditionally, in the United States, when home cooks think of sage, it’s often in connection with Thanksgiving dinner and other holiday feasts. As the Denver Post puts it, “It’s hard to not love an ingredient that loves fat. And that’s exactly what sage does – it partners perfectly with foods rich in oils and fats. That’s why it is so common in hearty holiday foods.”
And, yes. Sage clearly pairs brilliantly with rich meats and is an excellent flavor for bread stuffing. But, there is no reason to limit the use of sage this way. It also deliciously flavors dishes with potatoes, white beans, onions and more, and can be creatively used in egg dishes, pasta dishes, soups, stews, sandwiches and more. Pineapple sage presents interesting possibilities for desserts, as well – and here are the varieties of fresh sage grown by The Chef’s Garden.
In the wild, this herb is classified as Artemisia dracunculus, with the genus name (Artemisia) believed to have been chosen in honor of either the goddess Artemis or a real-life person, Queen Artemisia of Caria. The latter was a scholar and botanist from about 2,500 years ago. “Dracunculus” is Latin for snake or dragon-like, an excellent description of the tangled roots of wild tarragon.
In the first century A.D., Pliny suggested that people use tarragon to fight fatigue, while Middle Age pilgrims put “springs in their shoes to extend their walking range and roots in their mouth to treat toothaches. Because of its serpentine roots, it was also considered a treatment for snakebites.” You can find more information about the history of tarragon at Missoulian.com.
Classical French cooking, of course, frequently calls for tarragon, and this tasty herb pairs well with fish, chicken and vegetables, as well as in pasta dishes, tomato-based dishes, in salads and much more, including in cocktails and mocktails. The versatility of fresh tarragon means that this herb is delicious in delicate, mild dishes, as well as in robust ones, such as steak. For dessert, pair it with peaches, plums or berries – or in another creative way.
Here are recommendations by the New York Times. “Tarragon has a subtle but pronounced taste, which goes well with foods we associate with spring: salmon, chicken, veal, rabbit, eggs and baby vegetables like artichokes, fava beans, asparagus and carrots . . . Waxy fingerlings or new potatoes make a delicious warm salad tossed with a tarragon-vinegar dressing.”
We’d love to hear how you choose to use fresh tarragon in your menus. Send us pictures!
Other deliciously fresh herbs to use include:
Contact your product specialist today to get exactly the right freshly harvested herbs – hand harvested right when you order – for your dishes and drinks.