Thursday, October 30, 2008

Erb or Herb?

No matter how you say it, herb (silent h) or herb (hard h) it's the same. But what is the difference between an herb and a spice? Here are two definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Main Entry: herb
Pronunciation: \ˈərb, US also & British usually ˈhərb\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English herbe, from Anglo-French, from Latin herba
Date: 14th century
1: a seed-producing annual, biennial, or perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season
2: a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities

— herb·like \ˈ(h)ərb-ˌlīk\ adjective
— herby \ˈ(h)ər-bē\ adjective

Main Entry: 1spice
Pronunciation: \ˈspīs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French espece, espis, from Late Latin species product, wares, drugs, spices, from Latin, appearance, species — more at species
Date: 13th century
1: any of various aromatic vegetable products (as pepper or nutmeg) used to season or flavor foods
2 aarchaic : a small portion, quantity, or admixture : dash b: something that gives zest or relish
3: a pungent or fragrant odor : perfume
— spice·less \-ləs\ adjective

It's important to note that there are divisions within the herb categories, also.
Many plants cross over between medicinal herbs and culinary herbs and one such herb is sage. Fresh sage has a slight lemony flavor, but when dried it is much stronger. We often think of this herb when we think of turkey and stuffings/dressings. As a medicinal herb it can aid in digestion, soothe coughs, and is also an antiseptic. Besides all of this sage has beautiful blue and lavender flowers in the spring. If you intend to harvest it, it is best to do so before flowering, then cut back the plant after flowering and continue pruning throughout the season.
If you're like me and already planning on next spring's plantings, you might want to keep sage in mind.

Don't forget to visit An Herbal Bedfellow for healthy recipes made with herbs, and also my newest blog:
Happenstance House -- A journal about my Victorian home and all of it's contents.


joey said...

I could not live without herbs, Jane Marie ~ sage, rosemary, and thyme are tops, often still going in November (love stuffing fresh leaves and lemon in turkey or chicken).

Chris said...

No matter how they're pronounced (I say "erb"), wouldn't it be a sad kitchen, and world without them?

We couldn't make dilled potato salad, Moroccan spiced chicken, or gingerbread without them!

Thanks for the lesson.


Eleanor said...

I say herb with a hard 'haitch'! Here it's Queens English as a result of our colonial heritage. And I agree: what is life without herbs? I have a thriving herb patch under my oak tree and raid it regularly for origanum, various mints, thyme, basil, parsely and lavender to name a few.

Gail said...

I could never say herb...too many years in French classes! But I do love them....spices, too! Gail

Mildred said...

I just found your blog via Miss Sandy @ Quill Cottage. Seems we have many common interests. I am enjoying looking through your past posts.

Diane Kidman said...

I definitely want some sage for next year's garden. It does smell so wonderful, and it has lots of uses. Another favorite of mine for culinary and medicinal use is rosemary. I have a plant in my windowsill and I love to use it fresh for tea!

garden girl said...

I can't imagine gardening without herbs! (I say erb.) I love cutting handfuls for the kitchen and drying them for use over the winter, and the fragrance and foliage they add to the garden are not to be missed.

Naturegirl said...

I love and live by HERBS!!