No Other Should Be Allowed To Flower

This process is to be continued from year to year. If the selection is

carefully made, the grower will soon rejoice, because he will observe a

larger and a larger number of plants approaching the type of plant he

has been selecting for. In time practically the whole plantation will be

coming "true to type," and he will have developed a new variety. If his

ideal is such as to appeal to the practical man--the man who grows

> parsley for money--and if the variety is superior to varieties already

grown, the originator will have no difficulty in disposing of his stock

of seed and plants, if he so desires, to a seedsman, who will gladly pay

a round price in order to have exclusive control of the "new creation."

Or he may contract with a seedsman to grow seed of the new variety for

sale to the trade.

It may be said, further, that new varieties may be produced by placing

the pollen from the flowers of one plant upon the pistils in the

flowers of another and then covering the plant with fine gauze to keep

insects out. With the herbs, however, this method seems hardly worth

while, because the flowers are as a rule very small and the work

necessarily finicky, and because there are already so few varieties of

most species that the operation may be left to the activities of

insects. It is for this reason, however, that none but the choicest

plants should be allowed to bloom, so none but desirable pollen may

reach and fertilize the flowers of the plants to be used as seed



Some readers of a statistical turn of mind may be disappointed to learn

that figures as to the value of the annual crops of individual herbs,

the acreage devoted to each, the average cost, yield and profit an acre,

etc., are not obtainable and that the only way of determining the

approximate standing of the various species is the apparent demand for

each in the large markets and stores.

Unquestionably the greatest call is for parsley, which is used in

restaurants and hotels more extensively as a garnish than any other

herb. In this capacity it ranks about equal with watercress and lettuce,

which both find their chief uses as salads. As a flavoring agent it is

probably less used than sage, but more than any of the other herbs. It

is chiefly employed in dressings with mild meats such as chicken,

turkey, venison, veal, with baked fish; and for soups, stews, and

sauces, especially those used with boiled meats, fish and fricassees of

the meats mentioned. Thus it has a wider application than any other of

the culinary herbs.

Sage, which is a strongly flavored plant, is used chiefly with such fat

meats as pork, goose, duck, and various kinds of game. Large quantities

are mixed with sausage meat and, in some countries, with certain kinds

of cheese. Throughout the United States it is probably the most

frequently called into requisition of all herbs, probably outranking any

two of the others, with the exception of parsley.

Thyme and savory stand about equal, and are chiefly used like parsley,

though both, especially the former, are used in certain kinds of

sausage. Marjoram, which is similarly employed, comes next, then follow

balm, fennel, and basil. These milder herbs are often mixed for much the

same reason that certain simple perfumes are blended--to produce a new

odor--combinations of herbs resulting in a new compound flavor. Such

compounds are utilized in the same way that the elementary herbs are.

In classes by themselves are tarragon and spearmint, the former of which

is chiefly used as a decoction in the flavoring of fish sauces, and the

latter as the universal dressing with spring lamb. Mint has also a more

convivial use, but this seems more the province of the W. C. T. U. than

of this book to discuss.

Dill is probably the most important of the herbs whose seeds, rather

than their leaves, are used in flavoring food other than confectionery.

It plays its chief role in the pickle barrel. Immense quantities of

cucumber pickles flavored principally with dill are used in the

restaurants of the larger cities and also by families, the foreign-born

citizens and their descendants being the chief consumers. The demand for

these pickles is met by the leading pickle manufacturers who prepare

special brands, generally according to German recipes, and sell them to

the delicatessen and the grocery stores. If they were to rely upon me

for business, they would soon go bankrupt. To my palate the dill pickle

appeals as almost the acme of disagreeableness.


The flavors of the various herbs cover a wide range, commencing with

fennel and ending with sage, and are capable of wide application. In one

case which came under my observation, the cook made a celery-flavored

stew of some meat scraps. Not being wholly consumed, the surviving

debris appeared a day or two later, in company with other odds and

ends, as the chief actor in a meat pie flavored with parsley. Alas, a

left-over again! "Never mind," mused the cook; and no one who partook of

the succeeding stew discovered the lurking parsley and its overpowered

progenitor, the celery, under the effectual disguise of summer savory.

By an unforeseen circumstance the fragments remaining from this last

stew did not continue the cycle and disappear in another pie. Had this

been their fate, however, their presence could have been completely

obscured by sage. This problem in perpetual progression or culinary

homeopathy can be practiced in any kitchen. But hush, tell it not in the



Culinary herbs may be divided into three groups; those whose foliage

furnishes the flavor, those whose seed is used and those few whose

roots are prepared. In the kitchen, foliage herbs are employed either

green or as decoctions or dried, each way with its special advocates,

advantages and applications.

Green herbs, if freshly and properly gathered, are richest in flavoring

substances and when added to sauces, fricassees, stews, etc., reveal

their freshness by their particles as well as by their decidedly finer

flavor. In salads they almost entirely supplant both the dried and the

decocted herbs, since their fresh colors are pleasing to the eye and

their crispness to the palate; whereas the specks of the dried herbs

would be objectionable, and both these and the decoctions impart a

somewhat inferior flavor to such dishes. Since herbs cannot, however,

always be obtained throughout the year, unless they are grown in window

boxes, they are infused or dried. Both infusing and drying are similar

processes in themselves, but for best results they are dependent upon

the observance of a few simple rules.

No matter in what condition or for what purpose they are to be used the

flavors of foliage herbs are invariably best in well-developed leaves

and shoots still in full vigor of growth. With respect to the plant as a

whole, these flavors are most abundant and pleasant just before the

flowers appear. And since they are generally due to essential oils,

which are quickly dissipated by heat, they are more abundant in the

morning than after the sun has reached the zenith. As a general rule,

therefore, best results with foliage herbs, especially those to be used

for drying and infusing, may be secured when the plants seem ready to

flower, the harvest being made as soon as the dew has dried and before

the day has become very warm. The leaves of parsley, however, may be

gathered as soon as they attain that deep green characteristic of the

mature leaf; and since the leaves are produced continuously for many

weeks, the mature ones may be removed every week or so, a process which

encourages the further production of foliage and postpones the

appearance of the flowering stem.

To make good infusions the freshly gathered, clean foliage should be

liberally packed in stoppered jars, covered with the choicest vinegar,

and the jars kept closed. In a week or two the fluid will be ready for

use, but in using it, trials must be made to ascertain its strength and

the quantity necessary to use. Usually only the clear liquid is

employed; sometimes, however, as with mint, the leaves are very finely

minced before being bottled and both liquid and particles employed.

Tarragon, mint and the seed herbs, such as dill, are perhaps more often

used in ordinary cookery as infusions than otherwise. An objection to

decoctions is that the flavor of vinegar is not always desired in a

culinary preparation, and neither is that of alcohol or wine, which are

sometimes used in the same way as vinegar.


When only a small quantity of an herb is to be dried, the old plan of

hanging loose bunches from the ceiling of a warm, dry attic or a kitchen

will answer. Better, perhaps, is the use of trays covered with clean,

stout manilla paper upon which thin layers of the leaves are spread.

These are placed either in hot sunlight or in the warm kitchen where

warm air circulates freely. They must be turned once a day until all the

moisture has been evaporated from the leaves and the softer, more

delicate parts have become crisp. Then they may be crunched and crumbled

between the hands, the stalks and the hard parts rejected and the powder

placed in air-tight glass or earthenware jars or metal cans, and stored

in a cool place. If there be the slightest trace of moisture in the

powder, it should be still further dried to insure against mold. Prior

to any drying process the cut leaves and stems should be thoroughly

washed, to get rid of any trace of dirt. Before being dried as noted

above, the water should all be allowed to evaporate. Evaporation may be

hastened by exposing the herbs to a breeze in a shallow, loose basket, a

wire tray or upon a table. While damp there is little danger of their

being blown away. As they dry, however, the current of air should be

more gentle.

The practice of storing powdered herbs in paper or pasteboard packages

is bad, since the delicate oils readily diffuse through the paper and

sooner or later the material becomes as valueless for flavoring

purposes as ordinary hay or straw. This loss of flavor is particularly

noticeable with sage, which is one of the easiest herbs to spoil by bad

management. Even when kept in air-tight glass or tin receptacles, as

recommended, it generally becomes useless before the end of two years.

When large quantities of herbs are to be cured a fruit evaporator may be

employed, the herbs being spread thinly upon wire-bottomed trays so that

an ample current of air may pass through them. Care must be taken to

keep the temperature inside the machine below 120 degrees. The greatest

efficiency can be secured by placing the trays of most recently gathered

herbs at the top, the partially dried ones being lowered to positions

nearer the source of heat. In this way the fresh, dry, warm air comes in

contact first with the herbs most nearly dried, removes the last

vestige of moisture from them and after passing through the intervening

trays comes to those most recently gathered.

Unless the evaporator be fitted with some mechanism which will permit

all the trays to be lowered simultaneously, the work of changing the

trays may seem too irksome to be warranted. But where no changes of

trays are made, greater care must be given to the bottom trays because

they will dry out faster than those at the top. Indeed in such cases,

after the apparatus is full, it becomes almost essential to move the

trays lower, because if fresh green herbs, particularly those which are

somewhat wet, be placed at the bottom of the series, the air will become

so charged with moisture from them that the upper layers may for a time

actually absorb this moisture and thus take longer to dry. Besides this,

they will surely lose some of their flavoring ingredients--the very

things which it is desired to save.

No effort should be made to hasten the drying process by increasing the

temperature, since this is likely to result as just mentioned. A

personal experience may teach the reader a lesson. I once had a large

amount of parsley to cure and thought to expedite matters by using the

oven of a gas stove. Suffice it to tell that the whole quantity was

ruined, not a pinch was saved. In spite of the closest regulation the

heat grew too great and the flavor was literally cooked out of the

leaves. The delicate oil saturated everything in the house, and for a

week or more the whole place smelled as if chicken fricassee was being

made upon a wholesale plan.

Except as garnishes, herbs are probably more frequently used in a dry

state than in all other ways put together. Perhaps this is because the

method of preparing them seems simpler than that of infusion, because

large quantities may be kept in small spaces, and because they can be

used for every purpose that the fresh plants or the decoctions can be

employed. In general, however, they are called into requisition

principally in dressings, soups, stews and sauces in which their

particles are not considered objectionable. If clear sauces or soups are

desired, the dried herbs may still be used to impart the flavor, their

particles being removed by straining.

The method of preparing dill, anise, caraway and other herbs whose seed

is used, differs from that employed with the foliage herbs mainly in the

ripeness of the plants. These must be gathered as soon as they show

signs of maturity but before the seeds are ready to drop from them. In

all this work especial care must be paid to the details of cleaning. For

a pleasing appearance the seed heads must be gathered before they become

the least bit weather-beaten. This is as essential as to have the seed

ripe. Next, the seed must be perfectly clean, free from chaff, bits of

broken stems and other debris. Much depends upon the manner of handling

as well as upon harvesting. Care must be taken in threshing to avoid

bruising the seeds, particularly the oily ones, by pounding too hard or

by tramping upon them. Threshing should never be done in damp weather;

always when the air is very dry.

In clear weather after the dew has disappeared the approximately ripe

plants or seed heads must be harvested and spread thinly--never packed

firmly--upon stout cloth such as ticking, sailcloth, or factory cotton.

A warm, open shed where the air circulates freely is an admirable place,

since the natural temperature of the air is sufficient in the case of

seeds to bring about good results. Usually in less than a week the tops

will have become dry enough to be beaten out with a light flail or a

rod. In this operation great care must be taken to avoid bruising or

otherwise injuring the seed. The beating should therefore be done in a

sheet spread upon a lawn or at least upon short grass. The force of the

blows will thus be lessened and bruising avoided.

For cleaning herb seeds sieves in all sizes from No. 2 to No. 40 are

needed. The sizes represent various finenesses of mesh. All above No. 8

should be of brass wire, because brass is considerably more durable and

less likely to rust than iron. The cloths upon which the herbs are

spread should be as large as the floor upon which the threshing is to be

done except when the floor is without cracks, but it is more convenient

to use cloths always, because they facilitate handling and temporary

storing. Light cotton duck is perhaps best, but the weave must be close.