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The kitchen secrets of the little green gods
Geoffrey Grigson
August 21, 1961
To people of the past—200 years ago or 2,000 years ago—herbs were little green gods. According to the old Greeks, if you used herbs correctly, they would do wonders for you, but if you used any one of them on the wrong occasion or otherwise irked it, the herb would loose demons. Parsley is commonly used today to adorn blue-plate specials, but 19 centuries ago the Roman naturalist Pliny, a living fountainhead of facts—and fancies—insisted that the spirit of parsley would be offended if it were served anywhere but at funeral feasts. Pliny believed that snakes and vipers eat fennel (they do not), and he advised men to do likewise to improve their eyesight. The Greeks, and the Romans after them, planted green bay to ward off lightning, and long after the Roman Empire had gone to pieces, medieval physicians prescribed thyme to cheer up the sick.
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August 21, 1961

The Kitchen Secrets Of The Little Green Gods

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SWEET BAY. Bay leaves are good for making b�chamel sauce as well as for marinating fish, for soup, and for roasting or boiling beef. The bay tree can be grown in a tub. If dried leaves are used instead of fresh, you should mince them to get more flavor. Use them in combination with basil and rosemary to enhance pot roast.

CHERVIL. Easy to grow, and must be used fresh. It is neglected. "Chervil" comes from the name given it by the ancient Greeks, which meant "cheering leaf." Flavor and smell are sweet and spicy, and the leaves are good in lettuce salad. Vinaigrette sauce, an excellent accompaniment to cold lobster, combines chervil with parsley, onion, tarragon and capers, all finely chopped and mixed into an oil-and-vinegar dressing.

CHIVES. The little leek (which was grown in Roman gardens) of mild onion flavor, whose grassy leaves are snipped into scrambled eggs, omelets, salads and cream cheese. The simplest omelette aux fines herbes is flavored with finely cut chives and parsley.

TARRAGON, or herb dragon. A wormwood without bitterness, for salads (including sliced tomatoes), omelets, sauces, and tarragon vinegar. Chicken tarragon is one of the classic French dishes.

SUMMER SAVORY. A European annual, rather neglected, which can be employed like thyme in croquettes, meat pies, sausages and stuffing for chicken and veal. Broad beans can be cooked with savory instead of mint.

SORREL. Its name originally meant "sour plant." Sorrel is a refreshing herb, now chiefly famous as the foundation of French sorrel soup. A pur�e of sorrel is the best possible accompaniment to shad. This herb goes well with roast lamb, veal, goose and pork when used as the prime ingredient of "green sauce"—a sauce made by boiling the sorrel leaves with very little water and mixing the pulp with sugar, wine vinegar and meat juices.

FENNEL. Sweet fennel, sliced raw and served with oil and lemon juice, is a very refreshing summer hors d'oeuvre. The dried stalks and leaves are used in Provence as a bed on which loup de mer is grilled. They impart flavor to any similar fish, such as American sea bass.

ROSEMARY. Shining gray-green leaves and blue flowers make rosemary a garden shrub of delight, one that resists considerable winter cold. It is pleasant to crush the scented leaves and stick them into veal or pork or lamb before it goes into the oven. One must be careful with the amount used; rosemary is a strong, penetrating herb.

BORAGE. This annual, spreading its cheerful blue eyes round the garden summer after summer, emits a cucumberish savor. It is good in ravioli stuffing and in cream cheese, goes well with tomato salad and is an excellent garnish for cold salmon platters. It is an exhilarating herb, is reputed to give courage, and has been used in wine cups since the days of Pliny.

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