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How well do you know your fresh herbs?

fern Apr 23, 2008 12:16 PM


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

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  1. Ruth Lafler RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 12:42 PM

    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: Ruth Lafler
      MMRuth RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 23, 2008 12:47 PM

      That's what I got as well.

      1. re: MMRuth
        rockycat RE: MMRuth Apr 23, 2008 01:10 PM

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

        1. re: MMRuth
          oakjoan RE: MMRuth Apr 29, 2008 12:40 PM

          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
          momjamin RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 23, 2008 01:10 PM

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

          1. re: momjamin
            LindaWhit RE: momjamin Apr 23, 2008 04:16 PM

            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
            jcattles RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 29, 2008 03:48 PM

            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. d
            dingey RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 01:49 PM

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

            1. m
              mlgb RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 01:59 PM

              15 out of 20. I know nothing about tarragon.

              1. h
                Harters RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 02:17 PM


                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. d
                  Dee S RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 02:19 PM

                  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
                    Ruth Lafler RE: Dee S Apr 23, 2008 02:21 PM

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

                    1. re: Dee S
                      rumgum RE: Dee S Apr 23, 2008 06:14 PM

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

                    2. s
                      soupkitten RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 02:35 PM

                      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
                        TongoRad RE: soupkitten Apr 23, 2008 06:18 PM

                        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. goodhealthgourmet RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 03:39 PM

                        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
                          Dee S RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 23, 2008 04:50 PM

                          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
                            jlafler RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 23, 2008 11:00 PM

                            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
                              BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 25, 2008 10:43 AM

                              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
                                goodhealthgourmet RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Apr 25, 2008 10:47 AM

                                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
                                  LindaWhit RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 25, 2008 11:26 AM

                                  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
                                    goodhealthgourmet RE: LindaWhit Apr 28, 2008 03:12 PM

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

                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                aletnes RE: goodhealthgourmet May 12, 2008 10:59 AM

                                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
                                  BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: aletnes May 12, 2008 11:02 AM

                                  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. DanaB RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 04:23 PM

                                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. linguafood RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 04:45 PM

                                  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
                                    jlafler RE: linguafood Apr 23, 2008 10:51 PM

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

                                    1. re: jlafler
                                      linguafood RE: jlafler Apr 24, 2008 04:42 AM

                                      Or the modern version -- Italian '-)

                                  2. a
                                    adamshoe RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 05:05 PM

                                    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
                                      Caroline1 RE: adamshoe Apr 30, 2008 10:37 PM

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

                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                        Dee S RE: Caroline1 May 1, 2008 02:51 PM

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


                                        1. re: Dee S
                                          alkapal RE: Dee S May 2, 2008 06:57 AM

                                          right before he goes "kra POW"!


                                    2. j
                                      jlafler RE: fern Apr 23, 2008 10:40 PM

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

                                      1. chocolateninja RE: fern Apr 24, 2008 12:49 AM

                                        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. romansperson RE: fern Apr 24, 2008 12:12 PM

                                          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. Miss Needle RE: fern Apr 24, 2008 12:14 PM

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

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Miss Needle
                                              comestina RE: Miss Needle Apr 24, 2008 03:57 PM

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

                                            2. PaulaT RE: fern Apr 24, 2008 01:02 PM

                                              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. toodie jane RE: fern Apr 25, 2008 07:57 AM

                                                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
                                                  Allstonian RE: toodie jane Apr 25, 2008 08:23 AM

                                                  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
                                                    toodie jane RE: Allstonian Apr 25, 2008 09:21 AM

                                                    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
                                                      Harters RE: toodie jane Apr 25, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                      "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: Harters
                                                        soupkitten RE: Harters Apr 25, 2008 10:01 AM

                                                        i was going to guess lavender.

                                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                                          toodie jane RE: soupkitten Apr 25, 2008 10:39 AM

                                                          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
                                                            soupkitten RE: toodie jane Apr 25, 2008 11:54 AM

                                                            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
                                                              Harters RE: toodie jane Apr 29, 2008 06:19 AM

                                                              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: soupkitten
                                                              goodhealthgourmet RE: soupkitten Apr 25, 2008 10:48 AM

                                                              my first thought was eucalyptus.

                                                            3. re: Harters
                                                              Gio RE: Harters Apr 25, 2008 10:49 AM

                                                              "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
                                                                jlafler RE: Gio Apr 25, 2008 11:16 AM

                                                                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
                                                                  BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: jlafler Apr 25, 2008 11:27 AM

                                                                  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
                                                                    toodie jane RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Apr 26, 2008 09:04 AM

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

                                                                    1. re: toodie jane
                                                                      alkapal RE: toodie jane Apr 26, 2008 11:08 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        soupkitten RE: alkapal Apr 26, 2008 11:25 AM

                                                                        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

                                                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                                                          alkapal RE: soupkitten Apr 26, 2008 12:23 PM


                                                                    2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
                                                                      goodhealthgourmet RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Apr 28, 2008 03:14 PM

                                                                      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
                                                                        Gio RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 28, 2008 05:44 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                    Harters RE: Gio Apr 25, 2008 03:25 PM

                                                                    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
                                                                  PaulaT RE: toodie jane Apr 28, 2008 11:14 AM

                                                                  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
                                                                romansperson RE: toodie jane Apr 25, 2008 08:24 AM

                                                                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
                                                                  jlafler RE: romansperson Apr 25, 2008 10:21 AM

                                                                  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
                                                                    toodie jane RE: jlafler Apr 30, 2008 06:47 PM

                                                                    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
                                                                      jlafler RE: toodie jane Apr 30, 2008 08:46 PM

                                                                      "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
                                                                  firecooked RE: toodie jane May 6, 2008 09:43 PM

                                                                  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).

                                                                  1. re: firecooked
                                                                    alkapal RE: firecooked May 8, 2008 05:02 AM




                                                                    1. re: alkapal
                                                                      firecooked RE: alkapal May 9, 2008 01:33 PM

                                                                      cool. I do have sorrel! Thanks!

                                                                3. p
                                                                  Pincus RE: fern May 1, 2008 02:57 PM

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

                                                                  1. s
                                                                    Smileelisa RE: fern May 3, 2008 01:05 PM

                                                                    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. BobB RE: fern May 7, 2008 02:13 PM

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

                                                                      1. k
                                                                        kittywithawhippet RE: fern May 7, 2008 04:17 PM


                                                                        Now there's a spice ID quiz. Sadly, not in Smell-O-Vision.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: kittywithawhippet
                                                                          LindaWhit RE: kittywithawhippet May 7, 2008 04:53 PM

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

                                                                          1. re: kittywithawhippet
                                                                            TongoRad RE: kittywithawhippet May 7, 2008 05:18 PM

                                                                            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
                                                                              BobB RE: kittywithawhippet May 8, 2008 05:22 AM

                                                                              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. alkapal RE: fern May 8, 2008 05:24 AM

                                                                              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!

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