Herbs are small plants used as medicines or to flavor food.
Most herbs are perennial and have soft stems which die back in winter.
With some herbs such as rosemary, only the leaves are used. With others, such as garlic, the bulb is used. Fennel is used for its seeds as well as its bulb and leaves. Coriander is used for its leaves and seeds.
Basil gets its name from the Greek basilikon or ‘kingly, because it was so highly valued around the Mediterranean for its strong flavor. In the Middle Ages, judges and officials used to carry it in posies in order to ward off unpleasant smells.
Rosemary is a coastal plant and gets its name from the Latin ros marinus, meaning ‘sea dew’. People who study herbs — herbalists — once thought it improved memory.
Bay leaves are the leaves of an evergreen laurel tree. They were used to make crowns for athletes, heroes and poets in Ancient Rome. It is said that a bay tree planted by your house protects it from lightning. Oregano or marjoram is a Mediterranean herb used in Italian cooking. The plant gave its name to the American state of Oregon where it is now commonly used. Sage is a herb thought by herbalists of old to have special healing qualities. Its scientific name Salvia comes from the Latin word salvere, ‘to save.
St John’s wort is a perennial herb with yellow flowers which was said to have healing qualities given by St John the Baptist. The red juice of its leaves represented his blood. Now many people use it to treat depression.