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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom


Agricultural Facts


  • An herb is a plant that is valued for flavor, scent, medicinal or other qualities other than its food value. Herbs are used in cooking, as medicines and for spiritual purposes.
  • Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetalbes in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rahter than substance to food.
  • Many culinary herbs are perennials such as thyme or lavendar, while others are biennials such as parlsey or annuals like basil, and some are shrubs (such as rosemary) or trees (such as bay laurel).
  • Some plants are used as both a spice and an herb, such as dill seed and dill weed or coriander seeds and coriander (cilantro) leaves.
  • There are some herbs, such as those in the mint family, that are used for culinary as well as medicinal purposes.
  • Herbs are also known amongst gardeners to be useful for pest control.
  • Herbs are very easy to grow and can withstand difficult conditions. They thrive in poor soil.
  • Some of the herbs commonly grown in Oklahoma gardens or sold at farmer's markets include rosemary, basil, sorrel, chervil, cilantro, chives, parsley, thyme, oregano, mint, dill and sage.
  • Mint is an herb that comes in many varieties such as peppermint, spearmint, apple mint, lemon mint and even chocolate mint. Mint came to the New World with colonists who used it in tea for medicinal purposes.
  • Mint is used for seasoning lamb, vegetables such as carrots, in tea and in yogurt dressings. It is also used in the Middle East for salads, tabouli and marinated vegetables.
  • One of the most popular culinary herbs is sweet basil. The fresh leaf has a sweet, clovelike spiciness and is excellent with tomato dishes. Basil is considered one of the most important and highly used herbs in the culinary world and is popular in the cooking of many types of cuisine.
  • Basil is primarily used in sauces, pizzas, salads and pasta dishes. It is also the main ingredient used in pesto.
  • The name "oregano" derives from two Greek words meaning "the joy of the mountain." It is a hardy member of the mint family that has been used for flavoring fish, meat and sauces since ancient times.
  • Oregano goes well with vegetables, roast beef, lamb, chicken and pork. Generally used to season Mexican, Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes, oregano has a warm aromatic scent and robust taste. It is used to season soups, stews, meat pies, pasta sauces and shellfish.
  • Parsley is a great all around herb. It quickly adds a touc of color and texture to any recipe. The aroma and taste of parsley is very distinctive for a herb that is generally described as being mild.
  • Parsley is especially good in omelets, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, potato salad, soups, pasta and vegetable dishes as well as in sauces to go with fish, poultry, veal and pork.
  • Parsley has a delicate flavor that combines well with other herbs liek basil, bay leaves, chives, dill weed, garlic, marjoram, mint, oregano and thyme.
  • Rosemary is an herb of the mint family. It is a small evergreen shrub that is native to the Mediterranean and likes warm climates. It is produced all over the world.
  • Rosemary's aromatic flavor blends well with garlic and thyme to season lamb roasts, meat stews and marinades. Rosemary also enlivens lighter fish and poultry dishes, tomato sauces and vegetables.
  • Rosemary has a tea-like aroma and a piney flavor.
  • Chervil is a delicate herb with a subtle anise-like flavor. It is a very popular herb in French cooking.
  • Chervil is best used fresh because it loses its flavor in the cooking process.
  • Lavender is a member of the mint family and is closely related to rosemary, sage and thyme.
  • Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes.
  • Sage is an herb from an evergreen shrub in the mint family.
  • Sage enhances pork, lamb, meats and sausages. Chopped leaves flavor salads, pickles and cheese.
  • Sage is a wonderful flavor enhancement for seafood, vegetables, stuffing and savory breads.
  • Chives are a mild member of the onion family. They can be added to potato salad, baked potatoes, soups, salads, omelets, dips and spreads, pastas and sauces.
  • Cilantro is the name for the leaf of the coriander plant. It is used in many cuisines around the world, but most notably in Mexican and South American food as well as in Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
  • Coriander seed can be used in tomato chutney, ratatouille, frankfurters and curries, apple pie, cakes, biscuis and marmalade. The seeds are often used in Middle Easter, southern Asian and Latin American cuisine. In India both the leaves and the seeds are used in curries and spice mixes.
  • Dill weed is an herb that produces clusters of small flowers from which dill seed can be gathered. The leaves are good in soups, omelets, seafood dishes, potato salad and steamed vegetables. Dill seed is used in breads, pickling, cabbage dishes, stews, rice and cooked root vegetables.
  • Fresh garden thyme is an herb that has thin grayish leaves and a subtle lemon, yet minty aroma and taste. Thyme is used in a wide variety of cuisine but is most closely associated with French cuisine.
  • It is often used in soups and sauces, with meat, poultry or fish. Thyme is included in seasoning blends for poultry and stuffing and also commonly used in fish sauces, showders and soups.