Monday, December 10, 2012

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Fifteen days until Christmas and counting.  The trees are up, the stockings are hung and, the Christmas cards, welllll, the Christmas cards will get written sometime, I'm sure.  Looking out at the herb garden, I see a tangle of tans, browns and mahogany's with undeniable spots of emerald greens that make the December garden come to life. Four of these herbal bright spots are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  They not only brighten the sleeping garden but also they bring their flavors and scents inside.  After all, can you even think about that roasted Christmas goose (a.k.a. the turkey, in my house) without these four crucial ingredients?  Yet, there is so much more to these legendary garden mainstays that stretch beyond even the summer song's "Scarborough Fair."

Take parsley, for instance, cold resistant and still so very abundant in the garden and it comes with all sorts of benefits such being  packed with plenty of the vitamins A and C as well as calcium and parsley always dresses up a salad or pays a perfect compliment to fish and poultry.  I think the prettiest parsley is the curly kind but the more flavorful parsley is the flat-leafed or Italian kind. There is never really any need to nurse along a pot of indoor parsley, through the winter on the windowsill, as it will almost always provide the gift of beautiful leaves from your outside parsley patch for whatever your culinary needs may be.  In the language of floriography, parsley has always stood for joy and celebratory feasts.

Then, there is sage, which long ago was regarded as an herb that could cure almost anything.  Even it's genus name, Salvia officialis, means "health" or "salvation."  Sage is no longer known as a cure-all but can you imagine your turkey stuffing without at least a pinch of it?  Sage's presence in the garden year-round provides a healthy dose of grey-green folksyness and legend, too, such as, "sage promotes a happy home" and "where sage thrives, the woman rules."  With benefits like that, who would not choose to grow sage in their garden?  Certainly, not me, as sage always comes with wishes for long life and good health.

My favorite of these four essential herbs is rosemary, sometimes called the "Christmas Herb." It's rich heritage is steeped in all of the festivity of the season.  Rosemary's evergreen and fragrant stems are wonderful tucked into Christmas arrangements and those lovely standards and topiarys you see at garden centers and Blooming Hill got their start long, in history, ago as tiny tabletop Christmas trees.  They are still often brought inside and decorated while their piney, minty fragrance wafts through the house and mingles with the sweet cinnemon and citrus smells of holiday baking.

Finally, thyme, perhaps the oldest of these herbs, and maybe even the oldest of all herbs, and most assuredly the most classic, cannot be left out of this conversation.  It's green, earthy fragrance has often been described as the "dawn of paradise," coming in flavors of lemon to caraway to licorice. Thyme can be present in almost everything from meat and poultry dishes to cough syrup.  It can also help soothe indigestion, improve eyesight and relieve your headache.  This elegant little herb is an ancient symbol of energy and magic and, as much as bees love lavender, their very favorite herb seems to be thyme.  In fact, orchards were traditionally planted with thyme to ensure that bees would come in vast numbers to help pollinate the fruit trees.  Beyond that, thyme is believed to be the herb that dressed the Christmas manger for Baby Jesus.

This magical combination of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme bring whimsy and wonder to the December home both outside and inside.  Just take the time from all of your Christmas must-do's to run your hands through these herbs, or even open up your spice jars tucked away in your kitchen cabinet and breathe in their enchanting fragrance.  Then, you will see what I mean.

1 comment:

  1. Sage and Rosemary are scents that I could happily and deeply inhale on a daily basis.