Up to the early/mid twentieth century, certain culinary herbs were commonly used together in soup, sauces, stuffing, etc. and these blends had various names depending on who you asked about them. Some are perennial, meaning they come back each spring, and others may have spread through the seed they produced the previous year so that once established the cook need never worry about what to use to season her soup.
“As so many herbs are perennial, coming up year after year and often spreading rapidly from the root or from self-sown seed, as do the lemon balm, bergamot, lovage, thyme, sage, fennel, the various mints, the true tarragon, lavender, and many others it is well to prepare as large a space as possible in planning the original herb-bed”.
These can vary with location and climate, but let’s take a quick look at which herbs are perennial or that readily self-sow (I’m zone 8a):
Self-sow: garden angelica, borage, basil, calendula, chamomile, chervil, cilantro/coriander, parsley, dill, chives, edible docks, sorrel, fennel, lemon balm, horseradish, oregano, and purslane.
Perennial: bergamot, caraway, catnip, chicory, chives, fennel, ginger, horseradish, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, Roman chamomile, sorrel, tarragon, winter savory.
Evergreen Perennial: bay, hyssop, lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme. These are not worth the effort to dry as they can be picked fresh any time of year.
The beauty of herbs for seasoning is not that any one should be dominant, but how some of them blend so beautifully, coming together in perfect harmony. These should be the basis of any herb garden and the blends may be made after you dry your summer bounty. The following range in date from 1840s through 1920s.
SOUP-BUNCH. This is a bunch of young onions or leeks, carrots, and various herbs to be found in the market in most large places such as green sage, thyme, marjoram etc.; celery-tops are sometimes included.d The onions and carrots and other vegetables can be cut in pieces for the soup, but the herbs are best folded in thin muslin and taken out after 10 minutes of simmering in the soup.
SOUP BOQUET. A boquet [sic] of herbs for flavoring soups and sauces is much used by foreign cooks, and is made of a few sprigs of parsley, thyme, celery leaves, 1 or 2 leaves of sage and a bay leaf. This may be folded in a small square of tarlatan or other thin cloth, and wound with a thread. This can be put in the soup for a little time, and all removed without trouble when the soup is served. [Cheesecloth works nicely to hold your herbs as does an old-fashioned tea ball.]
VIRGINIA FLAVORING. Take thyme, mint, sweet marjoram, and rosemary gathered in full perfection; pick from the stalks, put them in a large jar, pour on strong vinegar, and let stand 24 hours; then take out the herbs, throw in fresh bunches, and do this 3 times; then strain the liquor, put it in bottles, cork and seal tight. Do not let the herbs stay in more than 24 hours at one time, else a bitter, unsavory taste may be imparted. What is wanted, is just the delicate first flavor which comes from stepping the herbs in the liquid. It makes a delicious flavor for soups and sauces.
HERBS, A BUNCH OF SWEET. Is made up of parsley, sweet marjoram, winter savory, orange and lemon thyme; the greatest proportion of parsley.
HERBS, SWEET. These in cookery are parsley, chibbol, [several spellings, a small onion or leeks] rocambole, [a garlic or shallot] winter savory, thyme, bay-leaf, basil, mint, borage, rosemary, cress, marigold, marjoram, &c. The relishing herbs or Ravigotte are tarragon, garden-cress, chervil, burnet, civet, [civette is the correct spelling, another name for chives] and green mustard.
BOUQUET GARNI. It was quite formerly known as a FAGGOT. Parsley, thyme, and bay-leaf. In its most simple form it consists of a sprig of thyme, marjoram, and a bay-leaf wrapped together in parsley, and tied into a little roll. To these may be added a small quantity of one or more of the following: chervil, chives, celery leaf, basil, tarragon.
FINES HERBS. Chop fine 6 shallots, place them with 1 ounce butter over the fire, cook 3 minutes; then add ½ cupful fine-chopped mushrooms, cook slowly 10 minutes; remove from fire; dip 2 sprigs of parsley in boiling water, instantly remove, chop fine, add 1 tablespoonful of it to the above preparation; season with ½ teaspoonful salt, and the same of grated nutmeg. If not used all at once, put it in a small glass jar, cover with buttered paper, and keep in a cool place.
“Fines herbes are used for gratins, barigoules, [formerly this referred to artichokes stuffed with mushrooms] papillotes, [a method of cooking in a folded packet of parchment paper or foil] also for Sharp and Italian Sauce”.
HERBS DE PROVENCE. Recipes vary from one cook to another but the most common ingredients are basil, bay leaf, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory and thyme with lavender being also quite common.
POT HERBS. “Pot herbs include all those varieties of herbs which may be grown in the kitchen garden—parsley, chervil, chives, thyme, sage, savory, basil, sweet marjoram, tarragon and rosemary. . .There are other herbs which might be included in this list of pot herbs; they are not so well known but have good qualities; among these are dill, fennel, mustard, caraway and borage”.
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