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How well do you know your fresh herbs?

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fun little quiz. turns out I didn't know as much as i thought i did!

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  1. I got 13/20 -- and at least one of the ones I got right I guessed on. I never can tell the various forms of oregano/marjoram and basil apart just by looking. And the difference between summer savory and winter savory? And French tarragon and Russian tarragon? That's not fair!

    6 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        15/20. I grow Mexican tarragon. What do I know about French vs. Russian?

        1. re: MMRuth

          I got 14 out of 20. Some of the photos were difficult to see. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          13/20 here, too. I did better with descriptive text than on the ones that just said "what is it".

          1. re: momjamin

            13/20 as well. And I had no idea of the differences in the summer/winter savory, Russian/French tarragon, and the marjoram/oregano question.

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            Ditto! 13/20. Marjoram & Oregano look alot alike, and I rarely use Tarragon, let alone know the difference between them. It was fun anyway!

          3. 14/20. Some of those were tricky! i had no idea there were Russian and French versions of thyme, tarragon, etc.

            1. 15 out of 20. I know nothing about tarragon.

              1. 15/20.

                I also couldnt separate the tarragons. Isnt the Russian one, the one with much less taste than the French (and, no, that's not intended as national stereotyping :-0 )

                And, in the UK, we don't have English and French thyme - so I guessed - and guessed wrong.

                And the marjoram/oregano questions beat me as well. Not a difference as far as I was concerned.

                1. 13/20 here too. I screwed up two and should have gone with my first answer. That's what I get for thinking!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Dee S

                    Yup. Me, too -- on one of the marjoram/oregano ones I thought they were being trickier than they were!

                    1. re: Dee S

                      13/20. I thought marjoram was 'wild oregano'. Totally confused. I thought the bronze fennel was tricky as well as the different dills.

                    2. 17/20. it's embarrassing that i reversed both the tarragons and the savories. although to everyone's credit i think the tarragons particularly had very immature plants and it was hard to tell the difference.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: soupkitten

                        I got 17 as well. I guess I did so well because I've grown most of these herbs at some time in my life (well...17 of them, apparently ;) ).

                      2. that was neat. i agree with the general consensus - what's with the comparisons of the tarragons & savories with no hints? i missed both of those, but managed to get the rest correct, tanks in large part to the information provided about them.

                        anyone else try the candy bar quiz that was linked on the same page? only managed a 13/20 on that one.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Candy? Didn't see it....16/20. There were some I'd never seen and I hit the wrong answer on the Butterfinger one! Should have been higher.

                          Sad that I'm better at candy then herbs!!! *That* explains a lot!!!!

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I did miserably on that one (10/20). I like to think it's because I haven't touched anything made by Nestle's in decades.

                            But now I'm craving a Heath bar.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              17/20 on the candy, 14/20 on the herbs. I'm weirdly proud of being able to tell the difference between a Fifth Avenue and a Butterfinger, but no way that was a Kit Kat.

                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                i'm glad i'm not the only one who thought so...i don't know what that was, but it sure as hell didn't look like any kit kat i've ever seen.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  That was NOT a Kit Kat. I swear it was a Chunky - look at the size of it. Height, squareness. Even thoough they showed Chunky later with the fruit & nuts.

                                  And I did miserably as well - 10/10.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    i think i might have guessed chunky for that one! it was huge.

                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                I also hated that on the candy bar one they compared what are essentially the same candy bars (skor/heath, krackel/crunch). From a bisection, its almost impossible to tell the difference.

                                1. re: aletnes

                                  See, I nailed all of those. Skor is much thinner than Heath, and I could see just enough of the surface of the rice-crisp bars to tell how they're embossed.

                                  I recognize that I'm a bit of a freak that way, though.

                              3. I got 13/20 as well. The ones where you had to distinguish between varieties of the same herb were the ones that I messed up on (i.e. French v. English Thyme, fernleaf v. other variety of dill).

                                1. Only got 11/20 on the herb quiz, but getting 18/24 in the pasta quiz will let me sleep well '-)

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Yes, I did well on the pasta quiz, too. Knowing Latin roots helps.

                                    1. re: jlafler

                                      Or the modern version -- Italian '-)

                                  2. 14 out of 20. Holy Basil, Batman!!! WTF is holy basil anyhow? Off to try the candy quiz; sure I'll do better on that one....

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: adamshoe

                                      I think Holy Basil was a pope in the 13th century. I didn't recognize him either. '-)

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Isn't "Holy Basil" what Robin says when he sees Batman cooking Italian food?


                                    2. I got 15/20. I started out on a roll -- got the first 12 right, then bombed on the last 8.

                                      1. 14/20 for me. The whole oregano/marjoram, french/russian tarragon, summer/winter savory confusion messed with me. ): And I got the fernleaf dill question wrong because I overthought it. Doh. Thanks to that basil question, I'm craving a caprese salad now though...can't wait for cherry tomato season to start!

                                        1. I got 18/20. Had no clue at all on the savory or lovage - I've never seen them, much less used them in recipes!

                                          1. 15/20 -- actually, I knew less than that but made some educated guesses on some of the questions.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              14/20--I engaged in educated guessing, too.

                                            2. 13/20 seems to be a popular score and thats what I got - I missed things I should have got bronze fennel and the wild oregano, and got the tricky ones - russian vs english tarragon.

                                              1. 20/20, but then I'm in the nursery business. Been looking at, smelling, selling those babies a long time.

                                                Take heart, many of those photos are very poor; hot-house grown, spindly seedings as opposed to mature growth of a garden plant.

                                                (Russian Tarragon is not a true tarragon at all, just has a similar but much inferior licorice flavor. Remember this, tarragon fans: true French tarragon will never appear as seedlings emerging from a pot of soil. It is always and only cultivated from cuttings, so you'll see a bunch of 3/4" leaves emerging directly from the soil on stout but flexible green stems. Don't pay for 'French" tarragon when you're getting an inferior imposter. Many unscrupulous growers sell 'Tarragon' in seedling form. They ain't it.)

                                                One way to tell Thai Basil from others: very upright stems, and most have a hint of purplish coloring on the stems, though the leaves are light green.

                                                **10 point bonus pop-up question: Can you tell which herbs on the test belong to the same plant family, and how can you tell? hint: answer has to do with a SHAPE.

                                                26 Replies
                                                1. re: toodie jane

                                                  Bonus question: is it members of the mint family, which have square stems? I've always thought that was very cool.

                                                  I got 18/20, mis-guessing on the tarragons and I forget the other one I missed. I did a LOT of educated guessing, though.

                                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                                    yes--SQUARE stems.

                                                    15 point question with a 10 point pop-up:

                                                    Which mint family member was used as battlefield antibiotic during WWI in the counrtyside of France, and what was the property that made it effective? (let's see if someone gets it w/o googling)

                                                    (which, said property makes it an effective and pleasant disinfectant in the kitchen)

                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                      "Which mint family member was used as battlefield antibiotic during WWI "

                                                      Is this a trick question? To which the answer is thyme (which is anti-septic and is, probabaly anti-biotic)?

                                                      BTW, do you any authoritative source that thyme (or whatever the answer was) was actually used as an antibiotic. It's just that I have an particular interest in the Great War & have never come across its use and it'd be interesting to see what process was followed. I have two friends who have particular research interests in the medical side of the War and I'm sure they'd be interested.

                                                      BTW, you may have spotted my earlier post that, in England, we don't have "English" thyme or "French" thyme. What are the Latin names for the plants that you call them in the US?


                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                          The answer I had in mind is lavender due to the property of linalool, but I'm sure there must be others (garlic?) I don't have any footnotes handy, but anecdotal research I did for a lecture on herbs cited the lavender/WWI connection. It was supposedly used when sulpha drugs were not available.
                                                          A good scientific herb info index where someone with patience could search out a scientific paper: http://www.herbmed.org/index.asp

                                                          The family, lamiaceae, is huge, with many of the gardening world's favorite ornamentals included.

                                                          I just can't imagine what the world's most popular cuisines would do without the culinary members. !viva lamiaceae!

                                                          1. re: toodie jane

                                                            wow what a great link, & very interesting about wwI. i knew that lavender was in the mint family & that it has some anti-inflammatory properties. i have used it in the past when i've burned myself but like aloe better. the fragrance also repels some pests and insects, hence its traditional use in sachets and as an addition to straw & feather mattresses. the properties and uses of herbs are endlessly fascinating to me, but the use of lavender in wwI is a new one! thanks for the fact of the day, TJ.

                                                            1. re: toodie jane

                                                              t j

                                                              I'm still on the search for a published source about the battlefield use of herbs. But, I find that the question was asked back in 2002 on the miltiary history board where I spend much of my time. The anecdotal info given was that French doctors used essential oils of lemon, lavender, thyme and cloves to accelerate wound healing and for their anti-septic properties. An early form of aromatherapy, if you will.


                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                              "BTW, you may have spotted my earlier post that, in England, we don't have "English" thyme or "French" thyme. What are the Latin names for the plants that you call them in the US?"

                                                              I believe both French thyme and English thyme are the same. The Latin name is, Thymus Vulgaris. That same thyme has many other names as well.

                                                              In my garden I grow both the common thyme and lemon thyme. I think it's my favorite herb.

                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                Yes, thyme is an herb that I like better and better as I get older. It's a lot more versatile than many people realize -- it pairs really well with citrus, for example.

                                                                1. re: jlafler

                                                                  Thyme is a great secret weapon ingredient. There are few soups or meat dishes that aren't improved by a little thyme at the end of cooking.

                                                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                    Thyme--my 'go-to' herb. I use more thyme than salt or pepper

                                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                                      toodie jane, the seeds for tarragon i planted had stalks and leaves, as i see french tarragon having. i guess i am misunderstanding your info about french tarragon cultivation. you can't grow the french from seed?

                                                                      btw: 17/20

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        all "french tarragons" come from one original plant-- they are cuttings, and not grown from seed


                                                                        if you grew tarragon from seed it would be russian tarragon

                                                                    2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                      i'm convinced fresh thyme is the ingredient i use in my homemade tomato sauce that always had my west coast friends asking why it was so good and how i got it to taste so much like east coast italian :)

                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                        It's amazing what flavor that simple tiny leaf imparts to any food you're cooking. It's a very hardy plant and is worth it's weight in gold in the garden. I cut tons for Winter drying and have a nice supply till Spring arrives.

                                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                                    Thanks for that, Gio. I grow four:

                                                                    Citriodorus - lemon
                                                                    Serpyllum - creeping
                                                                    Pulegioides - broad leaved
                                                                    Vulgaris - common

                                                                    Vulgaris has the best cooking flavour, IMO.

                                                                2. re: toodie jane

                                                                  This is interesting because thyme, not lavender, has very strong antibiotic properties. It actually came out on top of garlic, which has a ton of sulf-type compounds in it.

                                                              2. re: toodie jane

                                                                toodie, I was thinking they were using those little baby plants to make it harder on purpose! Mature plants would have been a lot easier.

                                                                As for your bonus question, I do know that *many* herbs belong to the mint family. Plants in that family have simple leaves that grow opposite one another, and squarish stalks. If the plant is also aromatic, there's a good chance it's in the mint family. Not sure if that answers the question though.

                                                                1. re: romansperson

                                                                  I wonder how much of the association of mint with sweets (mint jelly, mint ice cream, etc) is cultural. I've tried to make basil liqueur and ice cream or sorbet out of various mint-related herbs, and they always come out tasting like cough medicine.

                                                                  1. re: jlafler

                                                                    There are a lot of additional flavor compounds in the mint family plants, and if I had the right training I could tell you their names, but they have skunky or turpentiney flavors and odors. That may be what you are tasting. I agree that some mints are nasty and harsh while others are sweet. I know the aromatic lavenders are that way--some cultivars are very turpentiney, some are skunky, some are sweet, some are 'clove-y' (like that term?!) etc. For aroma and clean flavor, I like Lavandula x intermedia (hybrid) 'Grosso' it is just a little nicer than 'Provence' to my tastebuds and nose. Makes great Lavender Shortbread.

                                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                                      "Clove-y" is good, and "skunky" is up there with "road tar" and "barnyard." :-)

                                                                      It sounds like I should check out some different types of lavender. I've been under the impression that I don't like it -- when my local Peet's accidentally brewed up some Earl Grey with lavender instead of bergamot (they sell both versions) I had to take it back because I just couldn't drink it. But maybe I just haven't met the right lavender.

                                                                2. re: toodie jane

                                                                  Question on the sorrel - the picture looks nothing like what I have growing in my garden... large leaves, growing up from the ground, not stems. Do I really have sorrel (it will never get big here in Phoenix, I start from pot and grow until it starts to get really hot, then use it before it dies).

                                                                3. 11/20. Clearly my herb knowledge is deficient. I got 18/20 for the pasta quiz, though.

                                                                  1. That was fun! I have only been a foodie for a short time now so I think I did pretty good
                                                                    13/20 on the herbs. shocked me cuz until a few weeks ago I never ever used herbs

                                                                    15/20 on the candy and I don't eat candy at all but I remembered what alot of the different bars looked like.

                                                                    Sad to say I only got 14/24 on the pasta and I am Italian....sigh

                                                                    1. 15/20 on the herbs, haven't tried the others yet.

                                                                        1. re: kittywithawhippet

                                                                          I did much better with that one - 17/20. :-)

                                                                          1. re: kittywithawhippet

                                                                            Yeah- I'd have gotten the side by side question if I'd have been able to smell them, I bet. Still- 18/20 not too bad.

                                                                            1. re: kittywithawhippet

                                                                              19 out of 20, just missed the side-by-side. But really, the hints this one gives make it much easier than the herb one.

                                                                            2. candy quiz: no way was that a kit kat....even the packaging shows a different cross section.

                                                                              now, i've got to go try some candy bars!